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Native Sons Have Kit Carson 

Trail Marker Ready for Placing 

The landmarks committee of the 
Grand Parlor of the Native Sons of 
the Golden West has prepared a 
bronze tablet which is to mark the 
spot where stood the Kit Carson 
tree Mn the summit of Kit Carson 
j Pass, elevation 8600 feet. Some 
time this summer, after the snow 
melts and the road is opened, the 
tablet is to be carried up into the 
Sierras and permanently placed. 
Past Grand President Joseph R. 
Knowland of Oakland is the chair- 
man of the committee having this 
matter in charge. Grant P. Merrill 
of Woodfords, Alpine county, state 
highway superintendent, is co- 
I operating with the Native Sons and 
i will prepare the base for the tablet, 
which bears this inscription: 

On this spot, which marks the 
summit of Kit Carson Pass stood 
what was known as the Kit Car- 
eon tree on which the famous 
scout, Kit Carson, inscribed his 
name in 1844 when he guided the 
then Colonel John C. Fremont, 
head of a government exploring 
expedition, over the Sierra Nevada 
mountains. Above is a replica of 
the original inscription, cut from 
the tree hi 1899 and now in Suttcr 
Fort, Sacramento. 

The inscription was used by the 
Fremont expedition as a trail mark- 
er. The rotting trunk and stump of 
the old tree is still to be seen in 
the summit of the pass on the Ama- 
dor-Alpine route. 

"We have not yet determined," 

says Grant P. Merrill, "just how the 

tablet shal] be placed. I thought it 

would be a good idea to erect a 

j monument of cement and cobble- 

stones and set the tablet in it or, 
we could set the tablet into the face 
of the granite wall which rises by 
the road side. We might place an 
iron rail fance around the old stump 
and, by use of cement, preserve it 
for some years to come." 

It is possible that a day will be 3et 
for the unveiling OT the. tablet and 
due ceremonies held. If so, many 
Stocktonians who make annual pil- 

grimages into the Silver Lake, Kit 
Carson Spur country, will doubtless 
motor up to attend the affair. 




(Photograph by O. T. Dams) 



BY . 


Illustrated by more than one hundred half-tones, 
mostly from old and rare sources 

A. C. McCLURG & CO. 



A. C. McCLURG & CO. 

Published June, 1914 

91. JL $all Printing 

u. c. 



To My Father 

A Lover of History 

-Z^ 2. 
Bancroft Libraiy 


For text and picture in Kit Carson Days I have drawn 
liberally upon chronicles long out of date, thus essaying to 
get back close to the sources of our knowledge. Perhaps 
occasional excerpts may strike the modern reader, and par- 
ticularly the historian, as exaggerated; but it seems to me 
that the men who participated in the times herein treated, 
who wrote while yet the events were fresh, must furnish 
us with a perspective not only interesting, but valuable. If 
I have erred upon the side of local color, if the viewpoint 
of romance may be charged to have distorted in places the 
viewpoint of accuracy, if fancy may have intruded upon 
sober fact and figure, I make only the defense that I have 
written con amore, and have emphasized also the side of 

So, in making mention of the numerous excerpts, I would 
suggest that the notes to the chapters be not neglected. 
These notes are not always essential to the text. Indeed, 
frequently they may lead from the text, inciting to a wide 
reading which may prove delightful and profitable. 

For modern authorities I am chiefly obliged to General 
H. M. Chittenden's The History of the American Fur 
Trade of the Far West, an exhaustive, fascinating compila- 
tion, upon which must be based all succeeding histories of 
beaver days. At the head of the long line of individuals 
who are co-authors with me would I place Walter B. 
Douglas of St. Louis, to whose generosity every writer 
upon western history is, I imagine, deeply indebted. Ken- 
neth M. Chapman, of the Museum of American Archae- 
ology at Santa Fe, stepped aside from his special duties to 
assist in this, the work of a stranger. J. M. Guinn of Los 



Angeles is another kindly partner. Mrs. Teresina Bent 
Scheurich, who was born into the very thick of American- 
Mexican events, has been most patient with my queries 
upon those persons and times still near and dear to her. 
Charles C. Harvey, journalist, of St. Louis, has been a 
constant encourager. Captain Smith H. Simpson of Taos, 
and Major Rafael Chacon of Trinidad, Colorado, comrade 
veterans of the same glowing days in southwest history, 
have given me facts which only a very few persons now 
alive can recall. To the great assistance of Major Oliver 
P. Wiggins I have paid especial tribute elsewhere in this 
narrative. In Valentine Mott Porter of Santa Barbara, 
California, I found a ready advisor. The Senora Petra 
Beaubien Abre'u, through her son, Don Jesus L. Abre'u, of 
Rayado, New Mexico; Mrs. A. L. Slaughter of Kansas 
City; Mrs. Mary St. Vrain Sopris of Denver; General Asa 
B. Carey of Orlando, Florida; Colonel John A. Hannay of 
La Jolla, California; Aloys Scheurich, now with Kit Carson, 
but late of Taos; Captain George H. Pettis, who also has 
crossed the Divide, but late of Providence, Rhode Island; 
Mayor Daniel L. Taylor of Trinidad, Colorado; Sergeant 
Luke Cahill of Las Animas, Colorado; Ferd Meyer of 
Costilla, New Mexico ; Robert C. Lowry of New York City ; 
George H. Carson of Fayette, Missouri ; Albert H. Pf eiffer, 
Jr., of Del Norte, Colorado; Judge John S. Hough of Lake 
City, Colorado; Judge Hiram D. Bennet of Denver: 
pioneers, soldiers, scouts, and traders of brave days, they 
have willingly enriched with the gold of their memories 
these printed pages which otherwise would have been poor 
indeed. To many readers their names may mean little, 
but they will at least indicate how far and wide the lines 
of research have led. 

To F. J. Francis of Denver and O. T. Davis of Alamosa, 
Colorado, for photographs, and to Messrs. Tishler & 
Langer, who copied with much skill and care the yellowed, 


difficult lithographs and engravings from the brittle pages, 
I am deeply grateful. The Missouri Historical Society, 
the Colorado Historical Society, the Historical Society of 
Southern California and the Iredell County (North Caro- 
lina) Historical Society have rendered me much aid; and I 
have applied with satisfaction to the historical societies of 
Oregon, Nebraska, Montana, and New Mexico. It is unnec- 
essary, but none the less pleasant, to state that every com- 
munication addressed to the Bureau of American Ethnology 
at Washington received full attention. Through Senator 
George C. Perkins of California, the Smithsonian Institu- 
tion provided me with data of value. The Adjutant Gen- 
eral's office and the Bureau of Engineering, of the War 
Department, have answered my queries with military com- 
pleteness. The splendid shelves of the Iowa State Library 
and the Iowa State Historical Library at Des Moines 
proved a treasure-trove of enlightenment. 

Amidst the mass of dates and incidents will be found 
errors, for the writer is but human. Of these errors he 
doubtless will soon be made aware. In his narrative he 
has aimed to transcribe boldly, preferring to err rather than 
to slight. 

And now, out of data confused and tenuous, and hereto- 
fore based mainly upon one biography written before the 
Civil War, and that so frail that the Carson family, even 
to the hero's father and mother, have been suffered to 
remain in darkness; out of some six years' work covering 
by correspondence and interview the country from Los 
Angeles to New York, from Oregon to Florida, behold 
Kit Carson Days as it has been evolved. 

San Diego, California. 




II IN OLD MISSOURI 18101826 5 


V As FARED THE RUNAWAY 1826-1829 . . 31 





















QUAL 280 









XXX CARSON AND THE INDIAN 1853-1861. . . 358 







1867 467 


LAST DAYS OF " THE GENERAL " 1868 . . 493 













NOTES 623 

INDEX 657 










Colonel Carson Frontispiece 

Santa Fe caravan on the march 22 

Santa Fe in sight 22 

The Copper mines where Kit Carson worked .... 23 

The pueblo of Los Angeles 58 

Old Fort Union 58 

A Carson letter 59 

Independence Rock ^ . . 76 

Devil's Gate 76 

Old arms of plains and mountains 77 

The West in 1835 (map) 90 

The West in 1850 (map) 91 

William Wolf skill no 

Joseph Robidoux no 

Joseph L. Meek no 

"Old" Jim Baker no 

Jim Beckwourth . . , . . .in 

Rev. Jason Lee 136 

Rev. Samuel L. Parker 136 

Rev. Henry H. Spalding 136 

Myra Fairbanks Eells 136 

Mary Richardson Walker 137 

Rev. Francis N. Blanchet 137 

Rev. Peter J. De Smet 137 

Ceran St. Vrain 137 

Dr. John McLoughlin 162 

"Old" Jim Bridger 162 

Captain Nathaniel J. Wyeth . . : 162 




'"THAT "blood will tell" never has been better exempli- 
* fied than in the case of the Carson family in America; 
and when he took the danger-trail, youthful Kit Carson 
swung as true to his instincts as swings the needle to the 

The head of the house of Carson in America seems to 
have been William Carson, of Scotch-Irish strain, who emi- 
grated from England, possibly Scotland, in the first half 
of the eighteenth century, to Pennsylvania. Thence moving 
southward, joining in that impulse which transfused into the 
Carolinas and Tennessee so much of Scotch-Irish Protestant 
blood, he laid claim to 692 acres on both sides of Third 
Creek, in the Loray District of Iredell County, North Caro- 
lina. The Carson grant to this tract, from Lord Granville, 
bears date of December i, 1761. 

Of this William Carson the First the records run in brief 
that he was a farmer ; that he married Miss Eleanor McDuff 
(McDorf?), and that imprudently drinking from a cold 
spring on a hot day, before the Revolution, he died, leaving 
a wife and five children Robert, Lindsay (head of the 
Carson family in Missouri), Andrew, possibly an Alexan- 
der, Eleanor, and Sarah. 

The Carson family, now established in America, pro- 
ceeded to scatter like quail. An Alexander Carson migrated 



to Mississippi ; Robert Carson to Kentucky, where he lived 
until he died; Lindsay and Andrew to the Hunting Creek 
settlement in the north of Iredell County. Here Andrew, 
at twenty, and Lindsay, at twenty-two, proved the Carson 
metal in the fire of the Revolution. 

Andrew became a captain in the command of Marion the 
Swampf ox ; and while Lord Cornwallis was harrying South 
Carolina he carried dispatches between Marion and Greene. 
He was in the battle of Camden, and tradition states that 
he bore out in his arms, from under fire, the fatally wounded 
Baron DeKalb, stricken while crossing a creek, October 16, 

Of Lindsay Carson's exploits in the Revolution less comes 
down to us; but so sturdy an Indian fighter must have 
graven deep his signature. After the war he removed to 
South Carolina, and married Miss Bradley, to raise another 
wilderness brood, the flight of which was to reach from 
Kentucky to the Pacific. 

This, the first of his two marriages, added to his race 
William, b. 1786, who by union with Millie Boone of the 
Kentucky Boones, perpetuated around Fayette, Missouri, 
the Carson name; Sarah, b. 1788, m. Peyton and lived to 
an advanced age; Andrew, b. 1790; Moses Bradley, b. 
1792. The mother did not long survive this last child, but 
died soon after reaching the new home in Madison County, 
Kentucky, whither, 1792, the restless Lindsay moved on. 

Here, in Madison County, Kentucky, in 1797, he took 
unto himself a second wife, Rebecca Robinson, of Green- 
briar County, Virginia, and so resumed the interrupted 
sequence; for those were wholesome days of large fam- 
ilies. Six more boys and four more girls arrived, with 
regularity: i, Elizabeth, m. Robert Cooper of the Missouri 
(and Kentucky) Coopers; 2, Nancy, m. Briggs; 3, Robert; 
4, Hamilton; 5, Christopher; 6, Hampton; 7, Mathilda, 
m. Adams; 8, Mary, m. Ruby; 9, Sarshel; 10, Lindsay 


Second. But this, his namesake, the father never saw, for 
the birth occurred after the fatality of September, 1818, 
when Lindsay First died, aged sixty- four, crushed by a 
falling limb. 

Tradition in the Young family, of the Hunting Creek 
district, North Carolina, asserts that not in Kentucky but 
in Iredell County the famous Kit was born, while Lindsay 
and wife were upon a visit to his brother Andrew. Be that 
as it may, Iredell County of North Carolina has another 
claim, in the report, reasonably authentic, that Kit Carson's 
full given name was Christopher Houston, given out of 
respect to the Christopher Houston who was prominent in 
Iredell County during the Revolution. 

Of this brave family of fourteen, born to Lindsay Carson 
by juncture with the Bradley and the Robinson clans, all 
lived to manhood or womanhood. And this in itself is 
remarkable, for the wanderlust was in the veins. The girls, 
of course, married; but of the sons it is written, by a son 
of William, the eldest : " Every one, without a single excep- 
tion, went west in search of the Indian and the buffalo ; now 
that the Indian is guarded on the reservations and the buf- 
falo is nearly extinct, I am at a loss to know what their 
descendants will do for a pastime." 

When the first Carson entered the Far West, is not known, 
but an Alexander Carson (possibly son of that Alexander 
who was son of the first William) was encountered as a 
trapper upon the upper Missouri by the Wilson Hunt party 
of Astorians, in the spring of 1811. And he and his com- 
panion turned, with the party of Astorians, for the still 
farther West. Already he had been two years in the beaver 

Then with the advent in Missouri of the Lindsay tribe, 
the Carson family entered into the thick of pioneer affairs. 
The father and Moses served, with the home guard, against 
the Indians, in the War of 1812; Moses was in several 


up-river expeditions of the fur trade; a Carson (very likely 
Andrew, Moses' senior) was with the Ezekiel Williams 
adventurers who fared into the Southwest, 1811, and were 
gone two years; William, the eldest of all, was held back in 
Kentucky by Indian disturbances, until the war was over. 

William, Andrew, Moses, Robert, Hamilton, and Chris- 
topher certainly rode the Santa Fe Trail; Lindsay Second 
is said to have been with Fremont on that heroic but futile 
fourth expedition to the Rockies in the winter of 1848-49; 
of Sarshel and Hampton I have no record. 


IN OLD MISSOURI 1810-1826 

THE story of Kit Carson days is the story of beaver and 
of Indians; of mountain, canon, valley, desert, and 
stream ransacked through and through by the fur hunter ; of 
white blood and red blood meeting, striving, and mingling 
mingling sometimes in friendly union but far of tener in 
the struggle of mutual hate; of lonely camp and of boister- 
ous rendezvous; of thirst, starvation and rude plenty; of 
the trapper followed close by the trader, of both followed 
by the explorer, of the explorer followed by the emigrant 
colonist, gold seeker, settler; of Santa Fe Trail and 
Oregon Trail and California Trail; of a Bent's Fort, a Fort 
Laramie, a Fort Bridger and of trader and Indian march- 
ing out, the army marching in ; of Black Robe and of mis- 
sionary carrying Christianity from St. Louis and Boston 
overland to the mouth of the Columbia; of Ute, Apache and 
Navajo in the Southwest subdued by the bullet; of a Great 
Britain on the north, and a Mexico on the south, once touch- 
ing beyond the Rockies, then cleaved a thousand miles 
asunder by a westward pressing flag; of a Texas, a Califor- 
nia, a New Mexico, and an Oregon acquired, and of a 
" Great American Desert " fertilized; of a vast and savage 
West awakened and with astounding swiftness made amen- 
able to the purposes of civilization ; of an unknown country 
tw r o thousand miles wide becoming known; of the United 
States expanding in three directions until it had reached 
from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Gulf and the Rio 
Grande and the mouth of the Colorado to Canada and 
Puget Sound. 



Kit Carson traveled from Kentucky to Santa Fe by ox 
team and wagon. Before he died he had traveled from 
Washington City to the Wyoming Rockies by rail ; another 
year, and he could have journeyed from coast to coast in 
similar fashion. 

Daniel Boone, in 1797, at the age of sixty-five, had moved 
across the Missouri. Reports from him and his sons fil- 
tered back. Then in the spring of 1811, the head of the 
Lindsay Carson house emigrated from Madison County of 
Kentucky to this new Boone's Lick district of the even newer 
American territory of Louisiana. The youngest child (as 
yet) was Kit, born December 25, 1809. 

The Carsons and their southern party settled in what is 
now Howard County, along the Missouri River, about 200 
miles west of St. Louis. Other men and women of the 
South were here; more arrived; and soon there arose 
those doughty stockades celebrated in Mississippi Valley his- 
tory Forts Hempstead, Cooper, and Kincaid. The name 
of Linsey (Lindsay) Carson appears upon the roll of old 
Fort Hempstead, and he is claimed likewise by the descend- 
ants of the old Fort Cooper garrison. 

This was the extreme frontier of the United States; 
beyond was the " Indian Country," so to be designated, with 
but slight variation, for thirty years. The population of the 
Territory of Louisiana, which comprised that section of the 
old province north of the Territory of Orleans, or the pres- 
ent state of Louisiana, dwindled speedily as one proceeded 
northward from the lower Arkansas and westward from the 
mouth of the Missouri. St. Louis, with its 1800 people, 
was the metropolis. 

Encouraged by the government which was essaying to 
absorb a continent, the fur trade (the only trade, to date, 
of this the new West) had increased rapidly. Through 
many years St. Louis, under domination of the French, had 
been the headquarters of a fur trade operated mainly by 


private individuals, or at most by partners; for St. Louis 
was French, and from the very outset it was the French who 
in the new continent sought out the pelt of forest, prairie, 
and stream. But now, at the time of the Carsons' arrival in 
the Boone's Lick district, the Missouri Fur Company of St. 
Louis was organized with good backing, and the energetic 
John Jacob Astor of New York was pushing his American 
Fur Company. His ship the Tonquin was en route for the 
mouth of the Columbia, and up the Missouri River trail 
from St. Louis had hastened the supporting overland party 
of Hunt. 

In this Louisiana, soon to be rechristened Missouri Ter- 
ritory, Lindsay Carson continued his Kentucky and Carolina 
career. He led in many skirmishes with the savages; he 
and his third son, Moses, were enrolled in the home guards 
during the War of 1812. In 1814 some fingers of his left 
hand were shot off during a scrimmage with Indians. In 
September, 1818, he died by the fall of a limb from a burned 
tree while he was cutting timber in the forest near home. 
He left a thriving family, and a rifle of large bore, with 
the stock (like the fingers of his hand) smashed by an 
enemy's bullet. 

Kit, no longer the youngest in the family, was now almost 
nine years of age. Two and one-half of these years had 
been spent under the stockade protection of Fort Hemp- 
stead ; all had been spent in the shadow of peril by wilder- 
ness. He had run absolutely unrestrained except for the 
spasmodic efforts of a tired mother with many other nest- 
lings. He was thoroughly a settler's child. When he 
reached fifteen years his mother apprenticed him to a saddler 
in Franklin, then the chief Missouri frontier settlement. 

During the fourteen years since the Carsons had crossed 
the Mississippi, government, fur trader, and adventurer had 
repeatedly assaulted the Indian country. Making a rift in 
an entirely new spot of the bulwarks of the Northwest, in 


1820 Major Stephen Long, of the army, ascended the Mis- 
souri, past Franklin, in the first steamboat successfully to 
plough that stream, and from the present site of Omaha 
proceeded by horse and mule up along the Platte (name 
already well-known by mouth of voyageur and trapper) to 
the Rocky Mountains. Then swinging south, he skirted the 
eastern base of the foothills, passing the present site of the 
cities of Denver and Colorado Springs, and returned by 
way of the Arkansas. 

The Missouri Fur Company was constantly establishing 
more posts in that upper Missouri country, and there were 
half a dozen other companies in the field. William Ashley 
of St. Louis, first lieutenant governor of the new state, gen- 
eral in the militia and Missouri's leading citizen, had taken 
up the fur trade as another vocation, to pursue it so indus- 
triously that within six years he made his fortune. In 1822 
he had escorted up the river his first party, under Major 
Andrew Henry, who in service of the Missouri Fur Com- 
pany, a dozen years back, had built the first American fur- 
trading post on the Pacific side of the Stony Mountains, 
by the Henry Fork of the Snake River in extreme eastern 
Idaho at the Wyoming line. General Ashley followed his 
1822 expedition with others, accompanying some of them 
himself. To young Kit Carson these Ashley expeditions 
should have been of especial interest, for they at once num- 
bered upon their rolls Henry Vanderburgh, the ill-fated; 
Thomas Fitzpatrick, Carson's first mountain employer ; Jim 
Bridger, discoverer of the great Salt Lake; Jedediah S. 
Smith, the " knight in buckskin," whose Bible was as close 
a companion to him as his rifle, and whose trail across the 
desert into California, Carson would encounter on his initial 
trip as a trapper; Jim Beckwourth, the mulatto Crow chief; 
the Sublettes of whom William was the best captain of 
trappers in the West ; and others whose names figure largely 
in plains and mountain history, and with whom, in a few 


more years, Kit Carson, now a boy, mingled as a man, a 
fellow trapper and an equal. 

Moreover, up the river, in the summer of 1823, had passed 
a punitive expedition sent by government and fur people 
combined against the fierce Arikaras, who were forcibly 
obstructing traffic. In the fighting, this " Missouri Legion/' 
as it was styled, had been moderately successful. The way 
was opened. 

So much, briefly, as regards the Northwest. But the 
Southwest likewise was being exploited. Objective points 
in the Northwest were the Three Forks country of the 
sources of the Missouri River, and the Columbia and Oregon 
region, on the other side of the mountains. The Southwest 
spelled Santa Fe that far Mexican metropolis of the 
" Spanish Settlements." Pike had reported upon it; in 1806 
he had found there one James Purcell (or Pursley), an 
American from Kentucky already domiciled. At present 
Santa Fe and the Spanish Settlements were in everybody's 
mouth, for trade in that direction promised an attractive 
outlet to those Missourians who were not engaged in the 
fur business of the North. 

In June, 1813, Ezekiel Williams had returned to Boone's 
Lick of Missouri, after a long experience on the upper 
Arkansas, and had brought back much word of Santa Fe. 1 
The next year he went out again and his adventures were 
reported widely. 

In 1821 John McKnight passed through Franklin upon 
quest of his brother Robert who for nine years had not been 
heard from. He found Robert imprisoned in Chihuahua, but 
he found also that rumors were true, and that Mexico was 
free from Spanish rule, unfriendly to Americans, so he was 
enabled to bring Robert back with him. The return in the 
summer of 1822 was chronicled in the Missouri Intelligencer 
of Franklin. 

Meanwhile Captain William Becknell of Franklin adver- 


tised in the Intelligencer of June 10, 1821, for "seventy 
men to go westward " on a trading project. He assembled 
his party at the house of Ezekiel Williams (who doubtless 
could aid with much information about the country), and 
succeeded in penetrating safely into Santa Fe and in emerg- 
ing safely therefrom. The following January he arrived 
in Franklin again, enthusiastic over his profits. 

In the spring of 1822 Captain Becknell led another com- 
pany, with three wagons, and made a new and shorter trail 
across the Cimarron desert. The Santa Fe trade was 
fairly started, and the Missouri Intelligencer was constantly 
printing items upon it. 

So when Kit Carson was put out at saddlery service in 
Franklin in 1825, it was locking the cat in with the cream. 
Northwest and Southwest were thrilling with deeds and 
adventures, the accounts of which focused in Franklin 
Franklin, still keenly mindful of the great reception ten- 
dered to Major James and General Atkinson, when in 1819 
they had stopped off from their steamboat, en route to the 
Yellowstone. Ashley was reaping fame and furs. And 
Santa Fe had come into being. 

Thus Kit Carson found Franklin an eddy where two trails 
joined. Down the river, and up the river to the uttermost 
sources in the unknown, passed the men of the fur trade; 
by steamboat, by keel boat, ashore and even afoot, bringing 
their pelts, their squaws, their scars, and their tales. And 
here the Santa Fe Trail met the Missouri River Trail. Out 
of the south of west they came, into the dim south of west 
they went, those dusty pack trains laden tight with mer- 
chandise and escorting not only trader, but broadcloth 
merchant and health-seeking adventurer. Theirs were tales 
of desert rather than of mountains; of Kiowa, Pawnee, 
Comanche, and Arapaho; of the cibolero, or Mexican buffalo 
hunter; of thirst amidst burning sands; and of a romantic, 
ancient city, 800 miles away, by horse and mule, across 


the hazy " Indian Country " < Santa Fe of Neuva Mejico, 
where American goods and labor sold at great profit, and 
where American visitors were welcomed by the merry 

As against all this, the saddler's craft must have seemed 
dull indeed to Kit Carson. In a year he had had enough 
of it; and the following advertisement, which appeared in 
the columns of the Missouri Intelligencer of Franklin, indi- 
cates how he left it : 

Notice: To whom it may concern: That Christopher Car- 
son, a boy about sixteen years old, small of his age, but thick- 
set, light hair, ran away from the subscriber, living in Frank- 
lin, Howard Co., Mo., to whom he had been bound to learn the 
saddler's trade, on or about the first day of September last. He 
is supposed to have made his way toward the upper part of 
the state. All persons are notified not to harbor, support, 
or subsist said boy under penalty of the law. One cent 
reward will be given to any person who will bring back the 
said boy. 

Franklin, Oct. 6, 1826. 

Shrewdly enough might it be suspected that he had set 
face to the north, in the line of the fur trade. This was 
the easier travel and there were countless invitations for a 
lad to proceed onward with trader, trapper, or Indian 
plenty of whom, we may be certain, Kit Carson knew. 
Anybody who could handle a rifle was free to join any of 
a hundred wandering bands, white or red; and Moses 
Carson, and no doubt others of Kit's brothers, already had 
traversed the upper Missouri trail. 

But the chances for profit were greater on the Santa Fe 
Trail, and the romance of it was more appealing. So Kit 
Carson joined a Santa Fe caravan, and, by the irony of 
events, at the very first opportunity, the next spring, David 
Workman, saddler, did the same. 


Kit never again saw his home, and according to report, 
he saw few of his kinsfolk for almost two decades. Not 
until the spring of 1842 did he return to the Missouri fron- 
tier, and the sixteen years of spectacular progress had 
wiped out, as would a landslide, both places and people. 


OUT pulled the caravan, one of several dispatched this 
year from Franklin, for the Santa Fe trade was 
increasing. It was composed in the main of wagons and 
other vehicles; the year 1826 marked the passing, on the 
trail, of pack animals, and the employment of wheels 
entirely, although individuals with pack animals continued 
to attach themselves to caravans. 

In this year, 1826, all that vast West of today, from 
Missouri and Iowa to the Pacific Ocean, bore scarcely a 
name save here and there the title of Indian tribe, of lake, 
stream, peak and range, and desert; and, principally along 
the Missouri River and upper tributaries, of trading post or 
fur company's " fort." One army post had been estab- 
lished, at Council Bluffs Fort Atkinson. The heart of 
this country, comprising what are now fertile Kansas, 
Nebraska, and the Colorado plains, was labeled " Great 
American Desert." It was presumed to be worthless except 
for buffalo and uninhabitable by civilized man. Thus had 
Major Long, in 1820, reported it. He had pronounced it 
a providential barrier against the westward spread of 
humanity, and a bulwark, equally providential, against 
aggression by other nations from that direction. The geog- 
raphies of a generation ago were still clinging stanchly to 
this black-shaded patch the " Great American Desert/' 

There was not a settlement between New Mexico and the 
mouth of the Columbia in Oregon. Indians, more or less 
hostile, buffalo, antelope, wild horses, elk, deer, bear, wolves, 
beaver, the eagle, hawk, buzzard, other birds and quadru- 



peds, and many reptiles, made up the citizenship, aside from 
the trappers and traders. Fur, feather, buckskin, and painted 
nakedness was the garb in vogue. 

The boundary of that territory acquired as the Louisiana 
Province, from France, was yet rather obscure to the people 
at large, and even to the authorities. The United States 
extended to the indefinite Rocky Mountains, on the west; 
on the south to the Red River, and at the undefined line of 
the looth meridian of longitude, in present Kansas, only 
to the Arkansas. Below, all w r as Mexico and uneasy Texas 

which also was Mexican territory. Across the Rockies 

then known as the " Shining Mountains " and the 
" Stony Mountains," and toward their southern extremity 
as the " Anahuac " all was Mexico, generalized as Cali- 
fornia, up to the northern line of the present Utah. North 
of Utah everything was Oregon, shared temporarily by the 
United States and Great Britain, whose representative was 
the Hudson Bay Company. 

Kit Carson's entrance into this unplotted West which he 
soon would help map was not, we may be certain, heroic. 
He arrived, beyond any reasonable doubt, at the tail of the 
horse herd or " cavvy," as many another character promi- 
nent in western history has done. Herding this " cavvy " 
is the boy's and the new hand's job in the West, and always 
has been. 

Chroniclers have given Kit Carson a place from the out- 
set as official hunter for the caravan his duty being to 
supply the camp with meat. But he was just a boy of six- 
teen, undersized, of the gritty but nondescript Scotch-Irish 
type sandy-haired, sandy-complexioned, tanned and 
freckled, with full forehead and wide-set, blue-gray eyes. 
He was a good shot, self-reliant, wise in woodcraft and 
pioneer expedients, but these were not exceptional qualities, 
and regularly appointed " hunters " were not the rule in 
these early caravans. 


The caravan itself is recorded very clearly by Captain 
Gregg and by Thomas J. Farnham of the same era. The 
course to Santa Fe lay not as one traveled road, but as a 
number of chance selected trails, for the most part only dis- 
cernible to the keenest eyes. The country was, as a rule, 
flat and bare, and travelers kept a general direction from 
water to water, from camping spot to camping spot. Like 
any other long trail, the Santa Fe was merely a succession 
of convenient or necessary stages. Vehicles traversing it 
usually took a formation of four abreast, but sometimes 
they stretched out in single file for a mile and more. How- 
ever, the column of fours, and later of twos, was imperative 
in the Indian country, where compactness was a condition 
of defense. 

The journey out usually occupied fifty or sixty days ; the 
journey back, when the wagons, traveled lighter, could be 
made in forty days. The distance was about 780 miles, 
and a well-laden wagon traveled on an average fifteen miles 
a day. But in 1826, the time of Kit Carson's first trip, the 
travel was less systematized, more haphazard, and therefore 
less expeditious. 

From Franklin the Kit Carson caravan would strike 
away from the muddy river, and leaving Missouri through 
the green prairie of the then friendly Osage Indians, now 
aiming for the Arkansas River would cross into the Kansas 
of today. In addition to the great, heavy, flaring-topped 
Conestoga wagons, of Pittsburg pattern, each drawn by 
eight mules, there were a few stylish Dearborn carriages, 
the conveyances of city merchants and of invalids ; for both 
wealth and health were to be found upon the old Santa Fe 
Trail. Outriders were before and upon either flank of the 
column. In the dust of the rear followed the " cavvy," and 
on his mule, Kit Carson. 

As the caravan proceeded, exchanging the green prairies 
of western Missouri for the arid plains of Kansas, discipline 


would become stricter, for the Pawnees frequently raided 
here, and just ahead were the grounds of the fierce Kiowas 
and the equally dangerous Comanches. The horsemen 
would look to their arms and at night the wagons would 
be parked, or joined into a hollow square, the front wheels 
of one vehicle lapping the rear wheels of another. An 
opening was left, through which the animals might be driven 
in case of alarm. 

Early in the morning, after the rude but hearty breakfast, 
the captain of the caravan would sign to his lieutenant ; the 
lieutenant would call, " Catch up ! " Taking up the cry, the 
wagoners would briskly harness their teams. Presently 
from first one and then another wagoner would come the 
announcement : " All 's set." The teamsters were ready. 
" Stretch out, then." 

A noble sight those teams were, forty-odd in number, their 
immense wagons still unmoved, forming an oval breastwork 
of wealth, girded by an impatient mass of near 400 mules, 
harnessed and ready to move again along their solitary way. 
But the interest of the scene was much increased when, at 
the call of the commander, the two lines, team after team, 
straightened themselves into the trail, and rolled majestic- 
ally away over the undulating plain. 2 

The journey, especially to the greenhorn and the boy, 
and also to every person who loved nature, could not have 
been monotonous. There was the constant outlook for sus- 
picious figures which might be Indians. And the plains, 
today so lifeless except as new life has been introduced, 
in caravan times teemed with their wild animals. The buf- 
falo led in importance, but was subject to seasonal and 
hunters' influences. Besides the buffalo there was the 

Of that singular animal the antelope we saw great 
numbers; and in the fall, once or twice, many hundreds in a 


gang, which, all of one accord, would dash hither and thither 
with wonderful swiftness, looking at a distance, like the shadow 
of a moving cloud. There was a remarkable species of hare, 
nearly twice the size of the eastern; the fleetest of the prai- 
rie animals, though in tall grass they were easily caught. I 
had a nearly tame one, which fed on rushes, which would 
disappear in its mouth as if pushed through a hole. Badgers 
were common; and prairie foxes of light and elegant pro- 
portions. We met with many prairie dog " villages" ; whole 
acres of their burrows, with entrances in a small mound. 
Of wolves, there were thousands, of all kinds and sizes, 
except the large black wood wolf; never an hour of a night 
passed without the accompaniment of their howls; even by 
day they were to be seen around. One dark night, being 
officer of the guard, I advanced some two hundred paces to 
a spot where there was an excavation and a small mound of 
earth, and where garbage had been thrown; from the mound, 
I saw perhaps a dozen snarling over their unclean food; 
sword in hand, I sprang down among them; they scattered, 
but I did not stay long to see how far. Rattlesnakes were 
very numerous, and dangerous; we lost several horses by 
their bites. Wild horses we saw frequently, but not many. 
A horse which we lost August 3, was recovered from a gang 
a month or two afterwards. Buffalo, wolves, rattlesnakes, 
and grasshoppers, seemed to fill up the country. 3 

Pauses would be made at noon for lunch and respite, and 
halts at night for camp. There were perils aside from that of 
Indians. Accidents often happened. Rain and hail and sand 
storms of terrific violence would sweep athwart the route. 
Animals would stampede. They and wagons would be 
struck. The attack of the elements was appalling; and the 
caravan, out upon the vast pampa, like a ship in the midst of 
the ocean, was exposed to the ship's perils without the ship's 

The Santa Feans, when on the march through these plains, 
are in constant expectation of these tornadoes. Accordingly 
when the sky at night indicates their approach, they chain 
the wheels of adjacent wagons strongly together to prevent 


them from being up-set an accident that had often hap- 
pened, when this precaution was not taken. 4 

On the other hand, miscalculation as to water would 
result in dreadful suffering or even death from thirst. The 
Arkansas River was a great blessing. But away from the 
Arkansas, bewildered by the sameness of the landscape and 
by the " deep paths made by the buffalo, as if a thousand 
generations of them had, in single file, followed their lead- 
ers from point to point through the plains," the caravan 
might easily lose its way. 

Of the caravan with which Carson traveled only one 
mischance is recorded. A teamster accidentally shot him- 
self through the arm shortly before the caravan reached the 
Arkansas River. He refused to have the arm amputated, 
but by the time the caravan reached the river along 
which it would proceed the flesh had gangrened and 
amputation became necessary. There was no surgeon in the 
camp. Three men volunteered to perform the operation, 
among them being Kit Carson. It is quite unlikely, how- 
ever, that, as early biographers have affirmed, he was the 
operating surgeon. He probably held the improvised instru- 
ments for the rought but, as turned out, successful cutting 
and searing. 5 

About fifteen miles on, or another day's march, the cara- 
van would arrive at Pawnee Rock. This landmark has 
practically disappeared today, not alone from sight, but even 
also from memory. However, when Kit Carson went out 
upon the trail it was a bold sandstone promontory beside 
the trail, jutting up thirty and forty feet, its face carved 
with the symbols of travelers both white and red. The 
Indians long had used the rock as a signboard, and the 
caravans speedily adopted the scheme. Thus, as in the case 
of Independence Rock upon the northern Oregon Trail, and 
of Inscription Rock, westward upon the trail taken by the 


old Spanish conquistadors across the Arizona desert, Paw- 
nee Rock indicated that so and so had passed that way. 

Now the caravan was in dangerous country and strict 
watch and ward would have to be maintained. As sug- 
gested by the name, this was hostile Indian territory; the 
vicinity of the rock w r as a favorite resort of Pawnee and 
Kiowa war parties, always alert, upon the slightest provoca- 
tion, to rob a foreign company. It was also the heart of 
the southern buffalo range, and Indian hunting parties 
Pawnee, Kiowa, Comanche, Sioux, Arapaho, even the far 
northern Crow and Blackfeet were liable to be encoun- 
tered, following the slowly drifting, shaggy herds. 

But at this time the Ishmaelite bandits of the plains had 
not yet fully risen to attacking an organized caravan of 
eighty or one hundred men, their animals and wagons. 
According to the table prepared by Captain Josiah Gregg 
in Commerce of the Prairies, not until 1828, or two years 
later, did a caravan report loss of life to its members. 
Nevertheless, smaller expeditions were constantly being 
raided; this very year four overland traders had been 
deprived by the Arapahos of 500 horses and mules ; and the 
cavvy of a caravan was a prize bound soon or late, and at 
any moment, to draw down upon camp or march a yelling 
horde. So it may be seen that even the humble post of 
wrangler or herder had its spice of peril. 

Far western romance tells of Kit's caravan of 1826 hav- 
ing an Indian scare at Pawnee Rock, wherein young Kit 
shoots his mule instead of a Pawnee. But this incident is 
claimed by Jim Bridger, at an earlier time, for himself ; and, 
in fact, is a current joke ascribed to various individuals, 
and was perennial with the early trappers and adventurers. 
I would agree with Captain Chittenden's footnote in his 
History of the American Fur Trade, that it did not happen 
to Kit Carson, here and now. Nor is there any reference 
in Gregg or other contemporary authorities to any bloody 


battle with the Pawnees when any caravan of 1826 had 
proceeded a short distance beyond the rock. On the con- 
trary, according to the Peters biography of Carson (which 
misses no legitimate opportunities) the march of the car- 
avan was uneventful after the Broadus affair. So we must 
leave Kit his mule, and must defer for a time his taking his 
first scalp. 6 

Some two hundred miles beyond the rock the caravan 
of this early date would ford the Arkansas. The looth 
meridian had long been passed, and when the river was 
crossed the advance would all be in Mexican territory. 
Later caravans forded lower down; but for some years 
there was no one fording spot. 

To ford the Arkansas was somewhat risky on account 
of the quicksands. Teams were strengthened and the 
wagons were snaked through in double time. On the far- 
ther shore all the water which could be stowed away must 
be stored up ; five gallons to the wagon was none too much ; 
and it was found advisable to cook bread and meat sufficient 
for a two-days' journey. Immediately ahead was a " water 
scrape," or a dry march: the arid waste of the Cimarron 
desert in southwestern Kansas, between the Arkansas and 
the sources of the Cimarron River. It was the favorite 
haunt of the bold-riding Comanches. The Cimarron, 
below its sources, was only a dry, sandy bed. Herbage 
was scarce. Mirages lured, gigantic hailstones fell, the 
surface of the ground was so hard that wagons made no 
tracks, and the way was easily lost. The Cimarron " water 
scrape " grew to be the most dreaded stage of the overland 
trail to Santa Fe. It was at its worst in the fall, for water 
was then most scant. 

But when that was over when, having strained through 
the heavy sandhills that bordered the Arkansas, and across 
the firm, bare plain of the interior, the wagons, with team- 
sters and all peering nervously before out of bloodshot eyes, 


toiled gladly into the valley of the Cimarron and reached 
the first spring then there was comparatively clear sailing. 

And hereabouts would first be met, if not met previously, 
a cibolero, or Mexican buffalo hunter. Gregg has described 
him well. Wild as the Comanche, the cibolero ranged 
through the desert like any Arab, clad in trousers and short 
jacket of goatskin leather, and wearing a flat straw hat. 
Slung athwart his shoulder he bore bow and quiver; and 
he had a long lance, suspended beside him in a gaily tasseled 
case and waving above his head. His pride would be his 
fusil, or smoothbore musket of huge caliber, its muzzle care- 
fully stoppered with a great wooden plug, also tasseled. 
His stirrup hoods, or tapaderas, swept the ground, and his 
enormous saddle covered all his pony. 

It was considered a good stroke to encounter a cibolero; 
news of the market in Santa Fe could be obtained, and 
possibly a supply of dried buffalo flesh from his camp, 
where he, his companions, and their families, would be con- 
gregated, all engaged in securing wild meat. 

By the landmark of the Rabbit Ear mounds, about where 
now the panhandle of Oklahoma joins New Mexico, the 
caravan would know that it was upon the straight course. 
The country would wax rougher, mountains would be dis- 
cernible, as hazy outlines, to the northwest. Beyond them 
lay that prominent Mexican settlement of Fernandez de 
Taos, which now was awaiting Kit Carson and was to 
be his home town for forty years. A trail, branching 
off, led to it and had been recommended by the United 
States survey party the year before. Anybody for Taos 
was at liberty to take it; but traders in a hurry pressed on 
for Santa Fe. The oldest trail, the " mountain division " 
of the Santa Fe Trail, did not cross the Arkansas until 
having followed its north bank clear to the Rockies ; thence 
it turned to the south and headed for Santa Fe city. But 
it is likely that a fall caravan of 1826 would have sought 


what it considered the shortest route, and would have cut 
across the desert of the Cimarron to avoid the mountain 
snows, the sooner to reach its destination, and to be enabled 
to start back before midwinter. 

When Santa Fe was only some 200 miles away it was 
the custom of the caravans to dispatch an advance party of 
couriers, as " runners " to announce the approach and to stir 
up the market. By this time the caravans would show signs 
of wear. The exceeding dry atmosphere had shrunk and 
warped the wheels of the vehicles, the roughness of the road 
was shaking loose tires and spokes, so at every halt much 
tinkering must be done. Strips of buffalo hide were tied 
about, and wedges of thin hoop iron were driven in. 

At the Rio de las Gallinas, or Turkey River, the first real 
token of civilization, or semi-civilization, would be passed : 
a rude adobe rancho, at the foot of a cliff. It had been 
established before Gregg's time, 1831, and he says that here 
he was treated to a refreshing draught of goat's milk and a 
supply of dirty curd. After a long and unvaried diet of 
bacon, poor bread, coffee, and buffalo flesh, such an innova- 
tion would be welcome. Without doubt the rancho was 
there when the Kit Carson caravan traveled through. Rural 
New Mexico was a land of few changes. Twenty more 
miles and the first settlement, San Miguel del Vado, would 
be reached: an unprepossessing collection of mud huts 
squatted upon the bank of the rippling Pecos River. 

On would plod the caravan. The region was becoming 
more settled ; and Kit Carson must have kept his eyes anx- 
iously looking for the famous old city to loom into view. 
Then, finally, on an early November day, as the first wagons 
mounted a rocky ridge, he heard from the advance a great 
cheering. The word passed along the column : " Santa 
Fe ! Santy Fee ! There she is ! " And as he also attained 
the crest he saw in the distance to the northwest, before and 
below him, a valley dotted by trees, lined in green by ditches, 

(From Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies) 

(From Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies) 




Q S 

M P5 

9 d 

pci a 
< 5? 



cultivated to patches of corn and grain, and blotched with 
a splash of low, dun, sprawling structures that, according 
to Gregg, in 1831, resembled brick kilns, and according to 
Pike, a quarter-century previous, reminded one of a fleet 
of flatboats moored against the hill. 

It must be borne in mind that Santa Fe was strictly of 
Spanish architecture, as adapted to the country : adobe mud 
buildings, as a rule not even whitewashed ; flat-roofed, one- 
storied. Like the majority of visitors from the states, Kit 
Carson must have been disappointed. He had anticipated 
something far grander in a city that was the goal of eight 
hundred miles. 

However, the aspect appeared to please all of the more 
experienced. When within touch with Santa Fe, caravans 
usually halted to rub up. Clothing was changed to the best 
at hand, faces were washed, hair was slicked ; each teamster 
removed the old cracker from his whiplash and tied on a 
new one. These preparations having been consummated to 
the best of the wayfarers' ability, on down the slope, across 
the short plain at the foot of the ridge, and in amidst the 
squatty buildings would rumble and clatter the train. Gal- 
lantly would crack the long-lashed whips, the poor jaded 
mules, plucking spirit, would try to gambol, merrily would 
shout the men. All the population of Santa Fe seemed to 
be gathered there on the outskirts of the town. Loud and 
shrill pealed the cries of swarthy men and women: 

" Los Americanos! " 

" Los carros! " [The wagons.] 

" La entrada de la caravana! " [Arrival of the caravan.] 

More and more extravagantly, then, the proud wagoners 
of this November, 1826, travel-worn caravan swung their 
whips, snapping the new crackers and showing off before 
the black-eyed senoritas. The merchant proprietors sat 
stiffly their horses. Trappers grinned; recovered invalids 
stared. While at the very rear, pointed to and smiled upon 


as Muchacho! Muchacho Americano! Mire! [Boy! 
American boy! Behold!], confused by the celebration, but 
as much excited as anybody, rode Kit Carson on his dusty 
mule, driving his caballada. 

The arrival of a caravan was a stupendous event for old 
Santa Fe. It was a visit from another planet. In 1826 
very many Mexicans of even the northern territory had 
never seen an American, nor had they any clear conception 
of the United States; and for more than twenty years there- 
after the Caucasian white skin was a constant marvel. 

So that night, and for a succession of nights and days, 
the men of the Kit Carson caravan were entertained, like 
sailors from a foreign port, with a series of fandangos and 
other entertainments. As willing as anyone to be amused 
was the tanned boy Kit; paid off with his wage of five dol- 
lars a month, accrued from seven or eight weeks of labor, 
he probably saw the sights not omitting the palace with 
its rumored festoons of dried Indian ears ! 


AT THIS time Santa Fe and its environs were accred- 
ited with a population of about 5,000, in which prob- 
ably not more than a dozen of the permanent residents were 
Americans traders. There was not an American woman 
in the country. By American here is meant a gringo or 
foreigner, for all aliens of light skin were deemed Ameri- 
can. The term " white " has ever been accepted as a 
reproach by the native Mexican, who considers himself as 
white as the Anglo-Saxon, and thus applies the adjective 
to himself in distinction from the Indian. However, " white 
blood " in New Mexico long indicated Spanish blood, so 
bringing to mind the fact that the early Castilian was light- 
haired and blue-eyed. 

From the first the American, or gringo, was admired by 
the women and hated by the men, while both sexes agreed 
that he was uncouth and exceedingly impolite. The brusque, 
straightforward mien of the backwoodsman and the rather 
coarse-fibered trapper shocked the ceremonious, Spanish- 
trained populace, the worst of whom would stab the stranger 
in the name of God, and would not even light a cigarette 
without a polite " Con m licencia, senor " " with your 
permission, sir." Of course, as the aggressions between 
Mexico and the United States waxed more irritating to 
both sides particularly after the Texas affair the feel- 
ing against the American became excessive. From his dis- 
regard for conventionalities (which today, as then, is apt 
to seem his characteristic to other peoples), he was viewed 
as a monster. So that Lieutenant Ruxton, the English 


traveler, relates that one night in 1846, when he would have 
stopped over with a Pueblo family in Ohuaqui, the patrona, 
or mistress, was cautious until she discovered that he was 
an Englishman. Then 

" Gratias a Dios" she exclaimed. " A Christian will 
sleep with us tonight, and not an American." 7 

Santa Fe, at Kit Carson's first visit, was a place of great 
pretensions, but of little beauty. The houses and business 
buildings were uniformly of one story; of mud bricks 
smeared with a thin plaster of more mud, and in rare cases 
whitewashed with tierra blanca, or white earth. The mud 
roofs were flat, windows were protected by wooden shut- 
ters, iron bars, or, here and there, with sheets of thin, lam- 
inated gypsum in lieu of glass. Mud front joined with mud 
front, around the central plaza, in monotonous line, until 
at irregular intervals a winding lane, for a street, cut 
through. Dirt and squalor, refuse, dogs, and beggars pre- 
dominated; nevertheless there was much to interest the 
visitor from the Missouri frontier. 

The blanket-enveloped Mexican, smiling in the Ameri- 
can's face and scowling at his back, indolent, graceful, eter- 
nally smoking his cornhusk cigarette, and ever a cdballero, 
or gentleman ; the shawled Mexican woman, her face stained 
crimson with the juice of the alegria plant, or coated with 
a paste of chalk, to preserve her complexion for the fan- 
dango ; the burros, piled high with enormous loads of corn- 
shuck for fodder, or with wood from the mountains, or 
with parcels of melons, or balanced with casks of that 
whiskey termed " Taos lightning " ; supplies of chili Colo- 
rado and chili verde, vegetables, baked pifion nuts, peaches 
from the orchards of the Pueblos and Navajos, native 
tobacco or punche, grapes, bunches of ho fa or husk for the 
rolling of cigarettes, and other products strange or appeal- 
ing or, to a newly arrived caravan, both ; the constant 
gambling, principally at el monte, with Mexican cards, by 


high and low, rich and poor, alike, in open room and upon 
the street; the religious processions, at which everybody 
must uncover; aye, there was much to see. So we may 
picture the lad Kit Carson, discharged and with money in 
his pocket, wandering, gazing and spending. 

As soon as the customs duties had been paid the caravan 
would pursue its business of barter and sale. It would 
split into its component units. Detachments, after refresh- 
ment, would push on for the markets of El Paso del Norte, 
down the river, and for Chihuahua and Sonora, of the Old 
Mexico of today. The Yankee trader never has been con- 
tent with the near when there was a far which he might 
hazard ; and the merchants from the States already were 
penetrating on and on, into the interior of their new con- 

Usually it required three or four weeks to settle caravan 
business in Santa Fe, when, a return caravan having been 
loaded with the proceeds of the venture, the start back to 
Missouri was made, conveying the gold dust and the silver 
bullion, buffalo robes and furs, wool and coarse blankets, 
and live stock. Having in mind the return caravan, the 
favorite season for the outward trip to Santa Fe was the 
spring, that the reverse trip might be made before winter. 
Those merchants in the Kit Carson caravan who contem- 
plated return to Missouri with wagons would have hurried 
their business ; already it was November ; winter soon would 
threaten desert and plains. 

Intending, as he evidently did, to remain there, Kit 
Carson had entered the far West at an unfortunate season. 
If his consequent course demonstrated that he was deter- 
mined to be a mountain man and trapper, this was natural, 
for the romance of such a life would appeal to him then, 
as it has always appealed to a boy. But Santa Fe was not 
trappers' headquarters. Furthermore, through the winter 
employment would be slack ; not much of a caravan would 


be returning to the States, so late as this in the fall, and 
the stop-over teamsters, adventurers, and all would glut 
the little town with wage seekers. So if Kit Carson had 
thought of remaining long in Santa Fe he was rebuffed. If, 
his money dwindling, he had tried to proceed still farther 
southward, with Chihuahua or El Paso parties, because he 
did not speak Spanish he would have been nosed out by 
applicants who did. So he turned into the north, for 
Fernandez de Taos, New Mexico, and arrived there in 

What measures, if any, his brothers attempted for him, 
at this end of the trail, I may not allege; but it is probable 
that the runaway had no notion yet of going home. There 
was still much to be seen ; and Taos, or " Touse," moun- 
tain men's resort, traders' resort, already somewhat infused 
with American blood, was as famous a name in Missouri 
as Santa Fe. For anybody who wanted to be in close 
touch, in the far West, with the trappers, this was the spot. 
But when anybody engaged himself to a Santa Fe caravan, 
he was paid off at the journey's end, in Santa Fe. 

Taos lies seventy-five or eighty miles north and slightly 
eastward of Santa Fe. The trail between, like Taos itself, 
is still without a railroad ; but even in Kit Carson's first days 
it was well traveled. A goal of the earliest caravans, which 
took the mountain route to the " Spanish settlements," and 
a point of departure and arrival for miscellaneous traffic, 
Taos was a place of rank second only to Santa Fe, the 

The lad Kit found Fernandez, set near the head of the 
fertile Taos Valley, cl Valle de Taos, with the sparkling 
Taos creek flowing through and the sacred Taos moun- 
tain, now snow-capped, and yellow-plashed with the frosted 
aspens, standing sentinel over the terraced twin buildings 
of the Taos Pueblos, to be a settlement of some 500 people 
and the outpost of northern New Mexico. Being upon the 


border rather, the inhabited border, for the actual border 
was still two hundred miles northeast, at the Arkansas River 
it was a custom-place. And being the northern border 
town, close to the southern extremity of those Rockies 
whose eastern base was United States territory, and being 
also connected by caravans with Santa Fe and St. Louis, 
from the day of the first gringo wanderer to those parts 
until the Civil War, it was the great trappers' stronghold of 
the Southwest. 

To old Taos journeyed, annually or semiannually, 
through many years, by their trails from the Platte River 
of Wyoming and northern Colorado, from the hill depths 
of the upper Arkansas, from the Green River country 
across the range, the shaggy mountain men, to dispose of 
their furs and to indulge in the wild relaxations of that 
easy semicivilization. To old Taos came by caravan or 
independent party, English traveler, army officer, adven- 
turer all the flotsam and jetsam of the broad frontier; 
came General Kearny, Fremont, the Bents, the St. Vrains, 
the Vigils, Fitzpatrick, Bridger, Jim Beckwourth, Pegleg 
Smith. Out of old Taos sallied many and many a punitive 
expedition of mountain man and dragoon against the 
Apache, the Navajo and the Ute. 

Kit Carson arrived there in December, 1826, little realiz- 
ing, of course, that he had selected his home for forty 
years. The principal industry of Taos, above the barter 
of trapper goods, was the manufacture from wheat of a 
strong aguardiente, or " Taos lightning," together with 
smuggling, and agriculture enough to tide the indolent 
ranchero through the winter and spring stringencies. The 
natives were of the regulation rural class, ruled by a priest- 
hood not in advance, but rather behind, the times. 

Taos, as seen by Lieutenant Brewerton, of the United 
States Army, who was a guest of Carson in later years, was 
then, as earlier, but little different from other New Mexican 


towns. The houses were of adobe, with walls of great 
thickness, the living rooms provided along the sides with 
rolls of scrapes, or blankets divans by day, and when 
unrolled, beds by night. Sacred relics, rosaries, and images 
and pictures of the Savior or the Virgin Mary were the 
chief ornaments, with other prints and paintings of religious 

Some of these pictures of Scripture scenes strike the 
gringo as singular and impair his sense of reverence. Brew- 
erton was called upon by a rico, or wealthy Mexican, to 
inspect what was considered by the anxious owner as a 
masterpiece. After the dust had been brushed away, the 
subject was discovered to be the sacrifice of Isaac. But 

Abraham who stands upward of six feet in a yellow 
uniform coat and blue striped pantaloons, with cavalry boots, 
spurs, and moustaches to match is about putting an end 
to Isaac (whose dress, with the exception of the mous- 
taches, is gotten up in nearly the same military style as that 
of the patriarch) by blowing out his brains with an old- 
fashioned blunderbuss, the muzzle of which is close to Isaac's 
right ear. The Angel, however, has arrived just in the very 
nick of time; for as Abraham, with averted head, is pulling 
trigger, the celestial visitor discharges a torrent of water 
from a huge squirt directly into the priming of the gun, 
thereby saving the brains of the intended victim. 8 

To the uneducated, practically unenlightened, Mexican 
of that day, this modern version of the ancient story would 
be the more realistic and effective. 

It was amidst such a people, and their free and easy life 
in the little town of San Fernandez, that Kit Carson entered 
now, fresh from Missouri, presently to pass his seventeenth 
birthday, a boy, ragged and worn, strange to the customs, 
unable to speak the language, fascinated with frontier life, 
and as susceptible as any boy of his experience and age. 


SO IN old Taos, for that is the name used more generally 
than the rightful appellation, San Fernandez, Carson 
found society good, bad, and indifferent. Carlos Beaubien, 
a French Canadian of cultured blood, destined to be 
appointed by General Kearny one of the first three circuit 
judges of New Mexico, already was a resident there; also 
Antoine Robidoux (Don Antonio, forsooth), who, already 
contemplating a post or two beyond the mountains, was 
as energetic in the Indian trade as his brother Joseph, pro- 
genitor of St. Joe City, Missouri. 9 There were several 
families of high Spanish breeding into one of which Don 
Carlos was about to marry. The Bents (William, the 
trader, and Charles, who would be the first governor of the 
territory, under American rule), and the St. Vrains (Ceran, 
leader in state and war, and his trader brother, Marcellin) 
were soon to arrive from St. Louis; and Milton Sublette 
was to drift in, forming a trapper partnership with Ewing 
Young. Of forceful breed, he; his brother was that Wil- 
liam Sublette who had ascended the Missouri with the first 
Ashley command, and he himself was equally a rover, serv- 
ing in the North and in the South, and succeeding to a part- 
nership in the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. 

Taos, of course, had its round quota of real mountain 
men, American and French and nondescript, now settled 
there for the winter with their Mexican or Indian wives. 
Among them was Ewing Young, one of the earliest trap- 
pers and traders of that country, and Kincaid, another 



No " white man " of any nationality could come to Taos, 
where the natives were many and the aliens few, and not 
be given hospitality by the small contingent there, if only 
for the honor of his kind. The mountain trapper is nothing 
if not generous ; and the boy Kit was housed with Kincaid. 
Contemporary with forts Cooper and Hempstead, of the 
Carsons' first years in Missouri, was Fort Kincaid; so it 
is fair to presume that this Kincaid was from old Howard 
County, or at least was of the family for whom the fort 
had been christened. 

With Kincaid, Carson, the newcomer, spent the winter 
of 1826-27. The time of his arrival was unfortunate. 
Trappers were leaving, rather than entering, the moun- 
tains; for the fall hunt was over and no more fur expe- 
ditions would be on the tapis until spring. In Taos, even 
less than in Santa Fe, was there chance of work. Peon labor 
was cheap; in winter, only the distilleries would be run- 
ning, and they were small affairs. However, for Kit the 
winter was not wasted; he was enabled to pick up a good 
smattering of colloquial Spanish. He appears to have been 
a natural linguist, learning by ear entirely (for he could 
not read). To speak Spanish as used in Mexico was abso- 
lutely necessary, if he stayed, and he probably had realized 
this. It was the language universally employed, and was 
a medium even among the Indian tribes of the north. 

The lad's career through the two years following is some- 
what hard to understand, when one thinks of his career 
thereafter, and considered also that his brothers were in and 
out of Taos and Santa Fe. Although he was now at Amer- 
ican headquarters, and under the tutelage of Kincaid, he 
was not immediately enlisted with trappers or traders, but 
served as teamster, interpreter, or cook pursuing the 
unattractive fortunes of the usual runaway. 

One explanation of this is, that by size and means he 
had nothing to recommend him. He himself told General 


Rusling, many years later, that when he first entered the 
mountain West he " was too small to set a trap." 10 In 
type he was ordinary ; in appearance he was undistinguished 
all his life. Few persons, not knowing Kit Carson by repu- 
tation, would have picked him out for what he really was. 
Certainly, the mountain men in old Taos would have hesi- 
tated about burdening themselves with a slight greenhorn 
youth who probably did not look even his years. 

He would further be deterred from joining any squad 
because he had no money, supplies, or weapons. A trap cost 
twelve dollars in St. Louis, and if he had brought a rifle 
out with him he must have sold it in a pinch. Taos had 
nobody who would advance an inexperienced small boy 
an outfit, on speculation, or be responsible for him ; for all 
we know, Kincaid was poor, himself trapping, perhaps, 
no longer. His name seems not to appear anywhere among 
the fur hunts of that period. 

In the spring the native population would be dispersing 
into the fields but the rancher os would tender no living 
wage to a gringo. And what other opportunities would 
Taos present, with no industries except a distillery or two 
on the outskirts, with all the winter's money concentrated 
by spring in the hands of the saloons and gambling houses, 
and with traders from the States now squeezing the country 
still drier? 

Going down to Santa Fe again, when it was approaching 
caravan time, having seen the world to the end of his 
rope, young Kit could do naught but join a caravan leaving 
on a spring trip to Missouri. Willynilly, he was homeward 
bound. But at the ford of the Arkansas, a little over half 
way, they met a Franklin spring caravan, outward headed 
for Santa Fe. To this caravan Carson transferred his alle- 
giance and turned back with it, to Santa Fe once more. 

He was tiding himself along; whatever mirage of 
romance and golden hope had lured him from home was 


now vanished, and there remained only the desperate desire 
to scratch out a living. Back again in Santa Fe, Kit Carson's 
sole ambition was not scalp nor pelt, but the simple neces- 
sity of a woolen shirt. The means for this he earned, at last, 
by engaging as a teamster with an outfit out of Santa Fe for 
El Paso del Norte. 

Traders from Missouri, as has been said, frequently 
extended their operations south of Santa Fe, down the 
Rio Grande and clear to Chihuahua of Old Mexico. Old 
El Paso, today of Texas, was in 1827 the gateway to the 
Department of Chihuahua. It was known familiarly among 
traders as " the Pass " the name being attributed to the 
ford here (Ruxton), to the course of the river between two 
high points (Gregg), or to the retreat of refugees from the 
north southward, after the Pueblo revolt of 1680 (Gregg). 
In the boy Carson's time El Paso was noted chiefly for 
its grape products " Pass brandy " and " Pass wine." 
A bottle of either seems to have been a valued concomitant 
of a Mexican meal. Gregg compares the wine to Malaga, 
and another traveler compares it to Burgundy. 

The caravan trail to El Paso was 320 miles of the trail 
to Chihuahua, which was still 230 miles onward. It was 
a trail not without excitement, frequented by bandits and 
hovered over by the Apaches, for the last two hundred 
miles of its course totally unsettled, and divided into such 
delightful stages as the Jornada del Muerto (Day's Journey 
of the Dead), the forbidding Laguna del Muerto (Dead 
Man's Lake), a gloomy canon wherein the avid Apache 
loved to lurk, and the Ojo del Muerto (Dead Man's Spring) 
at the farther end of it. 

Having made the El Paso trip, in the fall Kit Carson 
sought Taos again, as the place to spend the winter. But 
no mention is made of his old friend, the mountain man 
Kincaid, who may have " gone under," or have changed 
his location. The haven this second winter, 1827-28, for 


the wanderer, was the quarters of Ewing Young, trader 
and captain of trappers. Here Carson, eighteen years of 
age, cooked for his board. 

In the spring of 1828 the luckless Kit was again foot- 
loose. It is strange that if his abilities as a hunter and 
woodsman were already pronounced, in promise of his 
later eminence, he was not enrolled under Captain Young, 
who was (as we know) now actively in the trading and fur 
business. But instead, deserted, as in the spring before, 
by his gods, lad Kit once more turned his face to the east 
and to Missouri, with an annual caravan. And as in the 
spring before, meeting an opposite caravan at the ford 
of the Arkansas, with it he retraced his course to Santa 
Fe. By this time he was fluent in Spanish as it was spoken 
throughout Mexico. As interpreter for Colonel Tramell, 
a trader (whose name I have not again encountered), 
he enlisted for the long journey of 550 miles to Chihuahua; 
first south to El Paso del Norte, thence inclining into the 
west, and occupying forty days. 

I can fancy that Kit Carson was glad of the chance to 
visit Chihuahua, the capital of that department, with a 
reputation as a city far superior to that of Santa Fe, and 
now practically the farthest point to which American traders 
as yet penetrated. Here in Chihuahua, so remote from Mis- 
souri and yet more closely connected with it through trade 
than is the case today, young Carson, the wanderer, encoun- 
tered an old acquaintance (by hearsay if not by person), that 
Robert McKnight whose return to Missouri, by way of 
Franklin, in 1822, after nine years' imprisonment in the 
Chihuahua calabozo, had been chronicled in the Intelli- 
gencer. His brother John, who had rescued him, had since 
been killed, and Robert himself was back in Chihuahua 
and vicinity, the first American after Pike to exploit the 
region. He was at this time endeavoring to recoup from his 
initial hard experience, by trading and by mining in the 


ancient copper prospects near the Rio Gila, to the north. 
The mines being worked by McKnight were in that old 
Santa Rita del Cobre (Saint Rita of the Copper) district 
in southwestern New Mexico. From them McKnight was 
planning to make a fortune; the gold in the ore paid the 
expenses of getting it out, and hauling it and refining it, so 
that the copper was clear gain. It was mined, with pick and 
shovel only, in great masses of red oxide. But the country 
was thoroughly Apache, and before McKnight had made his 
fortune he was working with as much ease as if he had 
been in a den of rattlesnakes. 

Trading and mining together, McKnight had wagons 
and pack trains continually shuttling between his outpost 
and the Chihuahua settlements. Following his incarcera- 
tion through those nine years, the pendulum must have 
swung well to the opposite end of the arc; to mine or to 
trade with the Indians, in Mexico, and particularly in this 
portion, was, for an American, hedged about with much 
favor and declaration, and with many open palms. 

To Robert McKnight Kit Carson hired out as teamster 
on the copper mines road ; worked thus through the fall of 
1828, passed his nineteenth birthday probably in Chihuahua, 
where Christmas would be celebrated by strange native 
plays, and spent the main part of the winter 1828-29 at the 

McKnight had not been the only American at the copper 
mines. The Patties, of Kentucky and Missouri, had made 
the place headquarters between trips farther westward after 
fur. Other " investors," also, had taken their turn at these 
mines; so that here had grown up quite a village of low 
adobe huts for the peons and officials. Later a fort was 
erected, triangular in shape, with angle bastions. The ruins 
of fort and huts were noted when in 1846, through this 
very spot pushed General Kearny's overland column to 


HOWEVER, Kit Carson had nearly reached another 
crossroads in his career, and the trail was about to 
broaden. In this interior of Mexico, before foreign blood 
and foreign methods had invigorated it, the Anglo-Saxon 
was swallowed; he could only adopt the life as it was; 
his very name became Spanish; and he became Mexican. 
In Don Santiago Querque, who of the North would recognize 
Jim Kirker, Scotch trapper? Yet Don Santiago Querque 
it was, thus incorporated with the citizenship, who led 
relentless expeditions from Sonora against the savages. 

Had Kit Carson stayed among the dons and the peons, 
as laborer and later as employer of cheap labor, he might 
eventually have vanished from history, as did Robert 
McKnight; he could have lived easily, by the customs of the 
country, and have died rich, but quickly to be forgotten. 
What impelled him, like a homing bird, toward Taos again, in 
the early spring of 1829, we may not know. Whether the 
Apaches temporarily interrupted the mining, whether he 
had a little money in pocket once more, whether now in the 
caravan season he preferred the caravan trail to the ore 
trail, or whether he was just sick for the sight of Americans 
other than McKnight and his fellows, and for news of his 
own country, who can say? But leaving McKnight (who 
in due course made a fortune, and encouraged thereto by 
the Apaches settled down in Chihuahua to enjoy it), having 
signed with no caravan in Santa Fe, he arrived in Taos at 
the end of March, when the trapper parties would be set- 
ting out into the beaver country. Here he found Captain 



Ewing Young, and almost immediately was engaged, at 
last, as a trapper. For Captain Young and Taos were both 
on the alert, a company which the captain had dispatched 
for the Rio Gila country, on a spring hunt, having trailed 
in, driven back by the Apaches. 

This was not necessarily unexpected; and very likely it 
was deserved. Bad as he has since proved, in the begin- 
ning of his intercourse with the invading whites the Apache 
was not as a rule unfriendly or vicious. He soon grew 
to hate with fierce hatred the Spanish and their descendants, 
the Mexicans, and met deceit and rapine with rapine and 

You have taken New Mexico, and will soon take California ; 
go, then, and take Chihuahua, Durango and Sonora. We will 
help you. You fight for land; we care nothing for land; we 
fight for our rights and for food. The Mexicans are ras- 
cals; we hate them and will kill them all. 

After such manner spoke the Apache chief to General 
Kearny, in explaining that Americans were safe; and he 
fairly well set forth the situation. But it came to be with 
the Apaches as with the other Indians of the West: they 
must fight; and once settled down to hostility toward 
everybody who wore a hat, they accepted their enforced 

However, it is with this spring of 1829 that our narra- 
tive is just now dealing, and with a brigade of forty men, 
including Kit Carson, about to set forth, under Ewing 
Young, from old Taos, to punish the Apaches and to trap 
the Gila and the Colorado. 

Immediately upon the report from his defeated detach- 
ment, Ewing Young reorganized, reinforced, and led the 
brigade himself. By virtue of his three winters in the 
country, the last passed in the exposed districts of the 
" copper mines," and by virtue also of his previous acquaint- 


ance with Captain Young, Kit Carson was, as said, given a 

When this expedition had left, Taos must have been pretty 
well cleaned out of able-bodied mountain men; the time 
was the first week of April, and the spring hunt had long 
been summoning into plain and hill. 

The roll of this Ewing Young company is still uncalled. 
The members were Americans, French-Canadians, Germans ; 
no doubt a few Mexicans, and men of mixed blood. Only 
a few names of the forty have been preserved: Ewing 
Young's, because he was a leader; Kit Carson's, because he 
had a Boswell ; James Higgins', because he shot " big " 
James Lawrence who therefore, also received honorable 
mention and Francois Turcote, Jean Vaillant, Anastase 
Curier, because they mutinied. 

The expedition did not make course at once into the 
Southwest and for the Rio Gila. It had no trapping or 
trading license from the Mexican government nor did 
Captain Ewing Young intend that it should thus be mulcted. 

To understand the license requirement, it must be remem- 
bered that the Mexicans themselves would not trap. That 
was too hard work, and too dangerous. Even as late as 1846 
Lieutenant Johnston, of the American column to California, 
remarking the tameness and prevalence of fur-bearing ani- 
mals along the Rio Grande del Norte, close to Mexican 
settlement, adds, " these creatures will not rejoice in the 
change of Government." 

And while the natives would not trap, under Spanish 
rule foreigners could not trap, except by challenging con- 
fiscation for their furs and the calabozo for themselves. 
But after Mexico became an independent republic in 1821, 
licenses were issued to foreigners for hunting and trap- 
ping and trading. As New Mexico was presumed to extend 
to the Arkansas on the north, and westward indefinitely, 
it covered the main fur territory of the South, and therefore 


the great proportion of trapping and hunting licenses were 
issued from Santa Fe. At first the permissions were 
granted only with the stipulation that a certain number of 
the natives should be taken along by the foreigners and 
" shown how." Later this stipulation was omitted ; but 
at all times the license was a rather spasmodic instrument, 
with a bad recoil. 

Often a license soon after being issued would be declared 
void because it had been issued under a previous adminis- 
tration. The rise and fall of political parties in New 
Mexico was so frequent and so sudden that the returning 
traveler could not foretell what policy he would encounter. 
It was alleged by Americans that although the license might 
be pronounced valid, the Mexican officials were not above 
hiring Indians or other desperadoes to follow the trapper 
and to rob him of his goods. 

However, in many cases the trapper or trader was not 
an innocent offender. He penetrated into Mexican terri- 
tory without leave, and took the risk of being unable to 
evade the authorities or to fight his way out if caught. He 
was reckless, overbearing, and defiant, treating the Mexicans 
much as he treated the Indians. 

Captain Ewing Young, therefore, took out no license for 
his party of this April, 1829. He seems to have had some 
excuse for his course. In the previous year he and Milton 
Sublette, having trapped under a license from Governor 
Narbona, were arrested and their furs confiscated by order 
of his successor, Governor Armijo. A change in the admin- 
istration had occurred during their absence. The confis- 
cated furs were spread out to dry, before the guardia,, in 
Santa Fe; whereupon Sublette boldly seized two packs 
which belonged to him, carried them off, and secreted them 
and himself among friends. The whole military force was 
called against him, and the enraged Armijo even had cannon 
leveled against a suspected house; but the plucky Sublette 



finally saved his two packs and himself, reaching the 
frontier. What Captain Young was doing, Gregg (the 
chronicler) does not mention. Farnham alludes to the fact 
that Young " had been plundered by the Mexican authorities 
of $18,000 or $20,000 worth of fur " ; but whether this time 
or another time, is left in doubt. 

As a subterfuge, to cloak overcurious eyes, Young 
marched his company northward out of Taos, taking pos- 
sibly the usual trappers' trail, which led over the Raton Pass 
and down to the Arkansas a trail which the earliest 
caravans had used, and which after the establishment of 
the historic Bent's Fort was a beaten highway. But long 
before reaching the Arkansas, beyond which was American 
territory, the party swung to the southwest, recrossed the 
ridge, and descended into the latitude which they had just 
left. There was slight danger that anybody would now ask 
for a license. Before lay only that wide desert expanse, 
from the Rio Grande to the Pacific coast, from Chihuahua 
of Old Mexico to the Salt Lake, totally uninhabited by 
white people and as yet scarcely trodden by Americans. 

Strange to say, although this section of the West was 
the first to be explored, it was the last to be exploited. The 
country of the conquistadors and the padres, penetrated by 
Cabeza and Estevan in 1531, by Friar Marcos in 1539, 
traversed by Coronado, Diaz, Alarcon, 15401542, and 
thereafter by Fathers Lopez, Rodriguez, Santa Maria, by 
Father Baltran and Don Espejo, Onate, the Jesuit Kino and 
his companions, establishing missions along the Gila and 
the lower Colorado, by Garces in 1774, by Escalante in 
1776, it remained as in the beginning. The trails of hoof 
and sandal made so bravely endured not even in memory ; for 
half a century after Escalante's feat, the great, wondrous 
region between the Rio Grande del Norte and the Cali- 
fornia coast was all unmolested by any outsider. The mis- 
sions were deserted, the native ceased to worship his little 


crosses, the fabulous cities lost their fascination, and the 
Indian became the conquistador, levying upon that civiliza- 
tion which had attempted to levy upon him, the feeble 
efforts of which had dwindled into but a few shallow inden- 
tations along the southern borders. So the Southwest 
slumbered again. 

But the Northwest was awakening everywhere. The 
contrast was an efficient lesson in the difference between 
New World and Old World government between Amer- 
ican and Spanish supremacy. Since 1803, the date of the 
opening of Louisiana Province to the Anglo-Saxon, or 
during but half of that fifty years while the Southwest slept, 
under impetus from Saxon and Gaul, Americans together, 
the Northwest had advanced more than had this same 
Southwest in its three centuries from 1531 and Cabeza. 
Trappers, American and French, w r ere exploring the secret 
places of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, broad- 
ening old trails and making new ones, preparing the way 
for the hosts of civilization. But western New Mexico, 
Arizona, Nevada remained uncharted and neglected. 

However, the Ewing Young party was not the very 
first expedition of Saxon proclivities to invade the waiting 
region. From 1776 the year of American Independence, 
which signified naught to this vivid, sunny area, some day, 
nevertheless, to profit by it until 1824 there is no record 
of alien foot set upon sands beyond the Rio Bravo the 
Rio Grande del Norte of New Mexico, save at the cop- 
per mines, or as Apache and Navajo returned to their 
haunts with Spanish-Mexican prisoners, or as occasional 
punitive columns, in revenge, darted from the white settle- 
ments of east and south, and back again. Then, in the spring 
of 1824, from Missouri boldly struck out the Pattie party of 
trappers and traders ; first determined upon the Northwest, 
soon, however, to turn and travel down to Santa Fe and on 
to the Gila of Arizona, which at that time was Nueva Mejico. 


Father and son were the Patties Sylvester and James 
Ohio, Kentuckians (of course) acclimated to Missouri, the 
new country. Having thus penetrated to the Southwest, they 
divided much of their time for two years between the " cop- 
per mines," where they preceded Kit Carson, and the 
" Heelay " to the west ; they followed the Gila down to the 
Colorado; ascended along the Colorado past the Grand 
Canon, pushing northward even to the Yellowstone in 
Wyoming; and ended their wanderings in 1828, in prison at 
Sta. Catarina of Lower California. 11 

It is claimed that in 1826 Richard Campbell, an early 
trader of New Mexico, and later a prosperous ranchero 
near Santa Fe, took a pack train across the desert from 
Santa Fe to San Diego. 12 As has been noted, Ewing 
Young himself had been trapping, evidently, in southwestern 
territory, with Milton Sublette, and moreover had just 
sent out another venture, for the Colorado. So that, having 
such precedents, the student of early Southwestern history 
must realize that trapping parties aside from those of the 
Patties, of Young and Sublette may have been roaming 
hither and thither, through this region, working, playing, 
fighting, feasting, suffering, with no pen or pencil to jot 
down their journeyings. 

The Ewing Young party of April, 1829, if not the first 
expedition since the Spaniards to brave the waiting, inhos- 
pitable depths, at least was the first of the kind successfully 
to cross from the settlements of the Rio Grande to the 
Pacific coast, and back again. It undoubtedly was encour- 
aged thereto by the reports from the Pattie enterprise; but 
it seems to have effectually broken the trail through and 
to have proved what could be done. 


SO, AS it happened, Kit Carson, who was to make a name 
in the Northwest, was to win his spurs in the South- 
west. A wonderful journey now lay before him. The 
trail first cut down diagonally through the northwestern 
corner of the present New Mexico the realm of the 
well-formed, light-complexioned, proudly-independent Nav- 
ajos. Like the Apaches, in the beginning they were friendly 
to the Americano that is, not openly hostile. But before 
their men now young had become old, Kit Carson was their 

After leaving the Navajo country the expedition crossed 
Zuni land, the people of which had gained wide, although 
undeserved, fame as being " white." Thus Father de Nica 
had defined them in 1539 through seeing, doubtless, one of 
their albinos. 13 Leaving Zuni the expedition entered what 
is today Arizona, and traversing toward the south this home 
of the Apache, came upon the head of the Rio Salido, or 
Salt River on modern maps the Salido. The Salido 
rises near the New Mexican line, and flowing west through 
east central Arizona empties into the Gila, of which it is the 
largest tributary. 

Thus far the Ewing Young party had traveled as in a 
hurry, and by route direct tracing again, perhaps, the 
course of that first party which had been turned back. 
As evidence of all this, it is recorded that upon the sources 
of the Salido one object was achieved; here were encoun- 
tered the same Apaches who had been concerned in the 
previous attack. 


But whether the same, or not, it would have made little 
difference to the trappers. When a Navajo's wife died, he 
was under obligations to go out and kill somebody. And 
borrowing from the Indian, the trapper, when an offense 
had been committed against him or his, took vengeance, if 
not upon the very offender, then upon the tribe. In this 
respect savage and frontiersman were much alike. 

Seeing the Apaches, the Ewing Young company lured 
them on with a show of weakness, until they caught them 
in an ambush and shot down fifteen by crossfire from rifle 
and pistol. The rest fled. 

Having exacted blood atonement, and cleared the way, 
the Ewing Young trappers might proceed to gather their 
furs. The valley of the Salt River was and is of exceeding 
romantic interest; ruins of large towns, acequias, or irri- 
gating aqueducts twenty-five feet wide, myriad fragments 
of pottery, speak of a vanished civilization. While on the 
road out from Taos the expedition had passed the Chaco 
Canon, the pueblo of Zuni, El Moro or Inscription Rock, 
and many another witness, mute or speaking, to bygone 
epochs. But the route, and the Salt River, and what must 
have been sighted thereafter, have come down to us only 
in Indians and fur; as unromantic a narration as the 
parasangs of the Anabasis. 

The Rio Salido (christened in 1698 by busy Father 
Kino, who upon one of his pilgrimages surveyed it from 
a hilltop) is at first a swift, cold mountain stream, until 
rushing out of the range it enters a series of richly alluvial 
flats, and swirling on, with rapid, clear current, finally 
merges with the Gila, in central Arizona. During the lower 
half of its course it flows over a bed of pure salt, so that 
its waters are perceptibly brackish. This was another of 
the wonders which Father Kino met. 

The Salido, wherever its banks were wooded, was ai 
beaver resort. The Ewing Young party trapped down it 


until they reached the mouth of the Verde, or San Francisco 
a tributary coming from the north. As was the custom, 
they turned and trapped up the San Francisco, to its head. 
" A fine, large stream," has been said of the San Francisco, 

in some cases rapid and deep, in others spreading out into 
wide lagoons. The ascent * * * by gradual steppes, 
which,, stretching into plains, abounded in timber. The river 
banks were covered with ruins of stone houses and regular 
fortifications ; which * * * appeared to have been the 
work of civilized man, but had not been occupied for cen- 
turies. They were built upon the most fertile tracts of the 
valley, where were signs of acequias and cultivation. 14 

Indians bothered the trappers almost nightly from the 
time they reached the San Francisco. Trapped animals 
were killed and animals and traps stolen. Meanwhile much 
fur was " caught." Twenty-two of the men were dispatched 
back to Taos, with the pelts, there to sell them and to buy 
more traps, for a fall hunt. Retaining seventeen men 
(among them Kit Carson), and now stocked with the 
traps of the Taos-bound party, Captain Young decided to 
strike in the opposite direction, for California. 

His retention of Kit Carson is the first definite token that 
the future celebrity was making good. During the two 
years and more that Carson had been in the far West his 
career would not indicate any sudden rise. On the con- 
trary, his offices as wrangler, teamster, and cook, and his 
failure to be enrolled with the enterprises of these mountain 
men whom he had met, would relegate him to the ordinary 
crowd. But when Captain Young divided his company, he 
would discard the chaff the weak, the laggard, the ineffi- 
cient for return to Taos, and would keep, for the Cali- 
fornia trail, only the tried and true. 

He was now, probably, in the vicinity of Bill Williams 
Mountain, seventy-five or eighty miles northeast of Pres- 


cott, Arizona. Thereabouts the modern traveler disem- 
barks at the station of Williams, en route for the Grand 
Canon to the north. And he was, roughly speaking, half 
way from Taos to the coast. However, California could 
have been but little known to Ewing Young or his men, as 
yet, and the distance to be covered must have been only 
guessed at. Commercial intercourse between New Mexico 
and California had not yet been established. But lured 
by some report or by some notion, as if the Golden State 
were already wielding its magic wand, making his own trail 
across the grimmest of deserts, Ewing Young led his sev- 
enteen men onward to the West. 

Warned by friendly Indians (possibly wandering Mo- 
haves, but more likely Tonto Apaches, a degraded tribe 
frequenting the Bill Williams country) that a dry entrada 
or march, was ahead, the California-bound party remained 
in camp, around the sources of the San Francisco, for 
several days, to provision with meat and water. But they 
killed only three deer. 

We are accustomed to look upon the western hills and 
plains of early days as swarming with game; and so, 
according to many chronicles, they were. But the game 
then, as today, was erratic. Here around Bill Williams 
Mountain were abundant timber, grass, and springs of the 
great San Francisco forest tract, a favorite resort of deer 
and antelope; yet the eighteen trappers, good shots all and 
versed in hunting craft, secured only the three animals. 

Making tanks of hides they filled them with water; suf- 
ficient, it was hoped, to last the entrada through. The flesh 
was jerked or dry cured. Then, mainly afoot, and driving 
before them their pack mules, they started upon an unknown 
way, for the Sacramento Valley, which lay somewhere in 
Nueva California, far beyond a waterless stretch of one 
hundred and eighteen miles. 

Their course was northwest, and must have been right 


across the desolate Colorado Plateau, which borders the 
Grand Canon of the Colorado on the south. " A more 
frightfully arid region probably does not exist upon the 
face of the earth," says Lieutenant Ives, in his report of 
the government expedition of 1857-58. His route south- 
ward from the Grand Canon must very nearly coincide with 
that of the Ewing Young party, northward, thirty years 
before. The Ives description is vivid: A rolling plateau 
with occasional thick growths of pines and cedars; with 
expanses of loose, porous soil wherein the mules sank to 
their fetlocks; with sharp slopes, forming small, higher 
plateaus, and unexpected, sheer, impassable canoncitos, or 
ravines, sometimes so thickly intersecting that the plateau 
was shattered like a ruin ; with an intensely hot sun stream- 
ing down through a dry, thin air that sucked moisture from 
the body; with not an animate thing encountered; and 
finally, with mules staggering along as if drunken, and 
men's brains afire with the scorching rays. 

Ours has been the first, and will doubtless be the last, party 
of whites to visit this profitless locality. It seems intended 
by nature that the Colorado River, along the greater portion 
of its lonely and majestic way, shall be forever unvisited and 
undisturbed. The handful of Indians that inhabit the se- 
questered retreats where we discovered them have probably 
remained in the same condition, and of the same number, for 
centuries. The country could not support a large population, 
and by some provision of nature they have ceased to multi- 
ply. The deer, the antelope, the birds, even the smaller 
reptiles, all of which frequent the adjacent territory, have 
deserted this uninhabitable district. Excepting when the 
melting snows send their annual torrents through the ave- 
nues to the Colorado, conveying with them sound and mo- 
tion, these dismal abysses, and the arid table-lands that 
enclose them, are left, as they have been for ages, in unbroken 
solitude and silence. The lagoons by the side of which we 
are encamped furnish, as far as we have been able to dis- 
cover, the only accessible watering-place west of the mouth 


of Diamond River. During the summer it is probable they 
are dry, and that no water exists upon the whole of the Colo- 
rado Plateau. 15 

But Lieutenant Ives' party was not the first. The padres 
had preceded him. Cardenas, in 1540, and Garces, in 
1776, had penetrated this portion of the great, lonely pla- 
teau guarding the south approach to the Grand Canon. 
And the party of Ewing Young, containing Kit Carson, 
were the first Americans, and the first white men after 
Garces, to cross it. 

It was in the middle of April that the Ives expedition 
traversed the Colorado Plateau; the time of the Young 
party must have been June or July (they had trapped on 
the way), so that the region was yet drier. To trace abso- 
lutely the trappers' trail is impossible; we can only see 
them, in our mind's eye, toiling on and on, northwest 
from the San Francisco country, pigmies amidst the wide 
desolation of gigantic ruin, conquistadors and padres again, 
whose hope was no seven cities nor savage souls, but simply 
fur. Through four days they had water from the hide 
tanks doled out to them; each night an armed guard was 
placed over the scant supply; but when four days had 
passed they came upon other water, camped beside it for 
two days, and rested. This may have been the lagoons 
mentioned by Ives, in the extract just preceding, and located 
toward the northwestern edge of the plateau, or it may have 
been a pool or spring (of which there are several) lower 

From the camp beside the water it was another four 
days' entrada, of hunger and thirst (pleasantly broken, at 
the close, by purchase from some Mohave Indians of a tidbit 
in shape of an old mare) to the Colorado, which was 
struck at the Grand Canon. I am inclined to think that 
this point was near the western end of the Grand Canon 


proper, or about at the sharp elbow (on the map) where 
is marked Diamond Creek and the present Walapai reser- 

It " failed not to awaken a thrill of delight in every 
member of the party/' inscribes Peters, Carson's earliest 
biographer. The rest is left to the imagination of the 
reader. But this we know: from the time of Cardenas, 
who, traveling up from the south in 1540, was the first 
white person to stand upon the canon brink, until today, 
none can have gazed into this mighty chasm without an 
overpowering rush of feeling. This was the point where 
the Ives expedition, after having experienced a long suc- 
cession of only slightly lesser canons below, came upon it. 

At the end of ten miles the ridge of the swell was attained, 
and a splendid panorama burst suddenly into view. In the 
foreground were low table-lands, intersected by numberless 
ravines; beyond these a lofty line of bluffs marked the edge 
of an immense canon; a wide gap was directly ahead, and 
through it were beheld, to the extreme limit of vision, vast 
plateaus, towering one above the other thousands of feet in 
the air, the long horizontal bands broken at intervals by wide 
and profound abysses, and extending a hundred miles to the 
north, till the deep azure blue faded into a light cerulean tint 
that blended with the dome of the heavens. The famous " Big 
Canon " was before us ; and for a long time we paused in won- 
dering delight, surveying this stupendous formation through 
which the Colorado and its tributaries break their way. 10 

As far as is recorded, the Ewing Young party was the 
second party of Americans to see the Grand Canon. The 
Patties, two years before, must have seen it and their 
remarks upon the nature of the country are less in admira- 
tion than in a great desire to be free of it. Jedediah S. 
Smith and party (of whom more will be told, presently) 
did not, probably, see it; they saw only the canons further 
down. Before the Patties and Smith, were but the Spanish ; 


after them, came Ewing Young, Kit Carson, James Law- 
rence, James Higgins, the three Frenchmen, and their 
comrades whose names no man knows. 

On the brink of the Grand Canon the Ewing Young 
party now stayed three days, recouping while doubtless 
also vainly wondering if it were possible to cross this tre- 
mendous gorge. But pass there was none. Mohaves from 
the south found the camp, and brought in a small quantity 
of corn and black beans. From these Mohaves the trappers 
would learn that southward the walls lowered, and a cross- 
ing existed. Having rested, the Ewing Young party there- 
fore diverged from the Canon, and traveling southwest for 
three days, by this short cut of the big bend which projects 
from northwestern Arizona into Nevada, reached the river 
again at the valley home of the Mohaves, where Nevada 
tapers to a slender point between Arizona and California. 

A people warlike, able to defend themselves, sturdy, 
independent, proud, but generally just and friendly to the 
whites, have been the Mohaves; devoted less to the chase 
than to the raising of corn, squash, and beans, upon the 
river bottoms, their land, and to tattooing of their bronze 
bodies. The men have been noted for their fine, tall stat- 
ures. When aroused they are fierce fighters and as mer- 
ciless as other Indians. 

The Ewing Young party were not the first trappers who 
had visited them. The Patties had passed up the Colorado, 
from the mouth of the Gila, two years before; and three 
years before Jedediah Smith and party on a beaver hunt 
from Utah had passed down, on the same side (the east) 
from the mouth of the Virgin River in what is now south- 
eastern Nevada. Bound from the Salt Lake of Utah to the 
teeming streams of California was Smith; the first man, he, 
to lead across the desert which lies between. At the Virgin 
he crossed the Colorado to the east bank ; at the Mohave vil- 
lages he crossed back again by raft, to the west bank, thence 


journeying boldly on southwest into the sands, for Califor- 
nia. The Mohaves had been friendly; but when he would 
have repeated the trip, the next year, incited by the Spanish 
of California to keep the gringo out they attacked his raft 
in midstream and of the eighteen men killed ten. Smith 
himself escaped, with his wounded, to reach San Diego by 
that parching desert trail which he had broken the year 
before. 17 

Taos being, we may easily believe, the center of mountain 
gossip in the far West, and Smith and the Sublettes having 
been associates in the trapping business, the chances are 
that Captain Young was informed as to Smith's move- 
ments just as he must have been informed, by word from 
the copper mines and Santa Fe, if not more directly, of 
the journeyings of the Patties. So he doubtless was upon 
his guard against the Mohaves. The Colorado was to be 
crossed by means of the Mohaves' rafts, for although a 
river people, the Mohaves never have possessed boats or 

The one contemporary biography, upon which all other 
biographies have been based, states that in the vicinity of 
the Jedediah Smith " massacre " (when the Indians are 
the victors in a fight, " massacre " is the proper word), on 
their route the Ewing Young party met with a dry river, 
rising in the coast ranges and leading " northeast " into the 
Great Basin. This they followed for several days before 
they came to water in it. Making due allowance for errors 
of geography natural to the first trip in a new country forty 
years before the same trip was chronicled, we may assume 
this dry river to have been the Mohave, of the modern 
map, in San Bernardino County of southern California. 
There is no other stream with the faculty of flowing 
" bottom-side up," between the Mohave Valley and Los 
Angeles, which one might follow for several days' travel, 
or say one hundred miles. 


This is a very singular stream. It may be said to run south- 
eastwardly about two hundred miles, and empty into the Colo- 
rado. But on all its length it does not run two miles without 
entirely disappearing in the sand. So that it presents to the 
traveler a long line of little rippling lakes, from two to two 
and a half feet deep, at one time sunken among hard flinty 
hills or piles of drifting sands, and at others gurgling through 
narrow vales covered with grass, and fields and forests in 
which live the deer, the black bear, the elk, the hare, and many 
a singing bird. 18 

In four days from the erratic river the trappers arrived 
at the mission of San Gabriel, near El Pueblo de los Angeles 
which is today Los Angeles city. This was a welcome sta- 
tion, one goal upon the march of over a thousand miles 
just for fur. When we read of the distance covered, the 
perils braved, the discomforts endured, by the western 
trapper, we can but marvel. It was the prospector's gamble. 


SO HERE was Captain Ewing Young, and here with 
him were Kit Carson and the rest, gaunt, burned, 
bearded, or bristly, in tattered, patched buckskins, but 
steady-eyed, unabashed, handling easily their long rifles, 
and, in sooth, a little company compact and f ormidable. 

The missions of California still were prosperous, although 
hampered by interference from the new overlord, the repub- 
lic of Mexico. Materiality was succeeding spirituality, and 
the end was near, for secularization loomed upon the hori- 
zon and already the priesthood was divided, its powers 
upon the wane. 

However, they yet were fat, these splendid missions, ooz- 
ing oil and wine, gathering about them those flocks and 
herds and lands coveted by the State which had not earned 
them. San Gabriel Arcangel, old (lacking but two years 
of being the oldest) and honorable, was proud mistress 
over 1,000 Indians, 70,000 neat cattle, 4,200 horses, 400 
mules, 54,000 sheep; its vines produced annually 200 bar- 
rels of brandy, and twice as much wine; and here were 
stationed a priest, and fifteen Mexican soldiers serving as 
guard. 19 

The governor of Alta California, in this summer of 1829, 
was Colonel Jose Maria Echeandia, " a man of scholastic 
bent and training and of Castilian lisp." He it was who 
had maintained such close espionage upon Jedediah Smith ; 
he it was who had retained the Patties : for, first man as he 
was to penetrate by land into California, Captain Smith 
had been arrested and expelled pursued by suspicion all 



the way from San Gabriel to San Jose of the north; and 
the Patties, the second Americans to enter by land, like- 
wise were arrested, the father to die. The Hudson Bay 
Company, entering from the north, knew how to conciliate 
the authorities ; but the American freebooter, as a rule 
disregarding those niceties of intercourse which marked 
the gente de razon and gente Una, was unwelcome. 

So Ewing Young did not tarry at San Gabriel ; his party, 
the third one of Americans thus invading from the interior, 
not only were American trappers, but they had no license 
or other conciliations. So Captain Young paused in 
his course only to trade four butcher knives for a fat 
ox, and hastened on before the presidio of San Diego, under 
whose protection the mission was, should have been notified. 
Moreover, the summer was advancing and the valleys of the 
North waited. 

Northward this little party pressed; past the famous 
olive orchard mission of San Fernando Rey de Espana, 
but a short march of thirty miles from San Gabriel, stop- 
ping here only an hour or two, and hastening onward. The 
rounded hills of a landscape already browning in a Cali- 
fornia summer waxed richer in natural resources; and by 
reason of streams, herbage, and groves was a pleasing con- 
trast to the desert behind. Such a region, under the soft Cali- 
fornia sky where never a cloud appeared, roamed over by vast 
quantities of deer, elk, bear, and wild horses must have 
appeared as trappers' paradise. 

Few civilized beings could have been met. The twenty- 
one missions, the four presidios, San Diego, Santa Bar- 
bara, Monterey, and San Francisco; the pueblos, de los 
Angeles, Monterey, Yerba Buena and San Jose de Guada- 
lupe, all were along the seaboard ; the route of the trappers 
was inland, up the middle of the present state, towards the 
Sacramento Valley. The settlement by Anglo-Saxons also 
was entirely by sea and upon the coast captains of Amer- 


ican and English vessels and their supercargoes being the 
chief gringo residents. 

Up through the pleasant land pushed the Ewing Young 
party, until in the Tulare Valley, amidst sign of beaver and 
otter, they found fresh sign of other trappers. Here had 
entered the alert, energetic Hudson Bay Company, to glean 
along the trail of Jedediah Smith. 

Perhaps disappointed, and no doubt spurred to renewed 
endeavor for the purpose of overtaking and passing their 
rivals, the Ewing Young company made greater haste. 
They emerged upon the noble San Joaquin (Joachim), 
where with sweep from the west into the north it continues 
on through its lush valley for the yet far distant bay. 

Trap signs were constant; somebody had been reaping 
the harvest; and upon the lower San Joaquin the Amer- 
icans overtook a party in the employ of the Hudson Bay 
Company of Vancouver, under command of that Peter 
Skene Ogden for whom Ogden, Utah, is named. 

As neither party would let the other go ahead, and as 
Captain Young must have been too shrewd a trapper and 
trader to trust much in any professions by that powerful 
corporation of the Northwest, whose country he really 
was invading, the two must trap together, more or less 
amicably. To this, Ogden probably was nothing loath, for 
he was a jovial, easy-going man, fond of social amenities 
of the wilderness. And as he had been in the valley since 
the preceding fall, his packs were heavy with fur. 

The two parties trapped down the San Joaquin to its 
delta, at Suisun Bay, which is the innermost extension of 
the Bay of San Francisco, and crossed over to the Sacra- 
mento. Now was it well into the summer; the fur season 
was done; the Ogden party, their mules laden high, pro- 
ceeded up the Sacramento Valley for the Pitt River country 
beyond, and for Vancouver; the Young party turned back 
for the lower San Joaquin, and went into camp. 


The summer passed with no interference from the jealous 
Calif ornian government. It is likely that the soldiery of 
the missions of the few presidios cherished a wholesome 
respect for American trapper rifles. Little was to be gained 
by armed conflict. And at Monterey Captain Young pos- 
sessed a friend in residence: Captain Cooper, of famous 
surname (as witness the Missouri Coopers), but not more 
definitely designated, and said to be not a woodsman but a 
seaman, now in business at Monterey. 20 

Fortunately, the Taosans were enabled to be of service to 
the mission San Jose, situated some twenty or thirty miles 
westward from the camp, and seventy miles north of 
the town Monterey. Powerful and rich was San Jose, 
raising much grain. From eighty bushels of wheat sown 
were gathered 8,600 bushels. It grazed 60,000 cattle, and 
in 1825 was suzerain over 3,000 Indians. But it was 
reputed to be a harsh taskmaster; and in this July, of 1829, 
the alcalde came to the trappers' camp on a hunt for run- 
away neophytes. He had pursued them to an Indian village, 
where he had been defeated. 21 

A few years before (in 1826), by the Republic of Mexico 
a decree had been issued, applying to California, setting 
free mission Indians. But spiritual power was slow to 
resign to temporal; and the missions clung to their home- 
rule policy. The alcalde was determined to capture and 
punish the San Jose refugees. 

The camp of the Americans (recognized as invaders, 
heretics, and ruffians, but great fighters) was appealed to, 
and twelve men, Kit Carson of course being one, volun- 
teered to help. Thus augmented, the mission force returned 
to the attack, the village was captured, and " one-third of 
its inhabitants killed." The demand to deliver over the 
refugees " was complied with." 

Relying now upon the obligations of the mission, Captain 
Young, a few days after this affair, visited it and engaged 


to trade in some furs for horses, of which he was in need. 
Tallow, grain, hides, beef, and wine were the California 
missions' main support; augmented occasionally by furs 
from the stock of foreign trappers (the natives would not 
trap), as in this case. Either through the mission, or direct, 
Captain Young disposed of his pelts to the skipper of a 
schooner, which had put in to Monterey harbor, and took 
back to camp with him a fresh outfit of horses. Almost 
immediately sixty of the animals were stolen from the camp 
cavvy by Indians who sneaked in at night; a revenge, no 
doubt, by those savages whom the trappers had needlessly 
rendered hostile toward them. 

This was serious, as it left only fourteen animals. Evi- 
dently Kit Carson, youth- though he was, had been demon- 
strating that caution and boldness combined, directed by 
intuitive right choice, which set him above the majority of 
his contemporaries; for Captain Young put him at the 
head of ten other trappers, and sent him in pursuit of the 
thieves. After a ride of one hundred miles, into the Sierra 
Nevada Mountains, the marauders were surprised in the 
very act of feasting upon six of the horses ; eight were 
killed, the rest were routed, and with the regained horses 
and three captured Indian children the victorious squad 
returned to the waiting camp. 

It may here be remarked that whereas the forest and 
prairie Indian of the East and the plains and mountain 
Indian of the West differed by the use of the horse, the 
animal was not at first put to the same purpose by all the 
Western tribes. The Eastern Indian traveled either afoot 
or by canoe; the plains and the majority of the mountain 
Indians traveled horseback, but a portion of the desert 
Indians, and of the California Indians, ate the horse rather 
than rode him. This was especially the case w r ith those 
more or less indolent or impoverished tribes, such as the 
Diggers, the Calif ornians, and even the Mohaves. 




(From Vol. V, Pacific Railroad Survey) 



(Sketch by Lieut. Col. Eaton in Darts' New Mexico and her People) 




(Original letter possessed by A. H. Pfeiffer, Jr.) 

Fort Garland, C. T. 
October loth, 1867. 

Dear Friend. 

It is with extreme regret on my 
part that the necessities of the service has at 
last separated us, as a brother officer of 
six years acquaintance, and an intimate 
and esteemed friend of a prior [time I] 
have long learned to place in [you my] 
confidence as an officer and a man. [It] 
is useless for me to make any expressions 
of my esteem for you, this is known by 
all, and better felt than expressed. 

Whilst your knowledge of 
frontier and Indian life in this country 
is unsurpassed, your courage is too well 
known to need any endorsement of mine. 
Your loss and sufferings since in the 
service are of so peculiarly severe a cha- 
racter as to deserve the thanks of a grateful 
country, and receive my hearty sympathy 
and commisseration. 

Receive with this my brother- 
ly regard and Believe me, 

Your true friend, 
Bvt. Lt. Col. A. H. Pfeiffer, C. Carson 

Santa Fe, N. M. B'v't Brig. Gen'l, U. S. Vols. 


At the beginning of fall, or in September, 1829, Captain 
Young broke camp and with his men started back for New 
Mexico. However, another episode had occurred. Toward 
the close of that same July three of his French Canadians 
Francois Turcote, Jean Vaillant, and Anastase Curier, 
before mentioned deserted, and announced at Monterey 
that they were going to stay in California. But the doughty 
captain apprehended them, and on the charge that they owed 
him money paid to them in advance forced them to return 
with the party. He brooked no insurrections. 

Having retraced the former route to San Fernando mis- 
sion, thence the captain made the mistake of paying a 
visit with his party to the near-by Pueblo de los Angeles. 
His followers may have importuned him for this dissipation, 
on the eve of leaving upon their long desert march. The 
action of the three Canadians has shown that in the ranks 
were turbulent spirits. 

El Pueblo de Nuestra Sefiora la Reina de los Angeles : the 
Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels, was a place 
of more pretensions than Monterey, and older. In 1830 
it had 1,000 inhabitants; and although the houses were 
little more than hovels of mud, eight feet high, with roofs 
of reeds and asphaltum, it was known as a " city of gar- 
dens," as today. Amusements were many; the trappers 
determined to have a final " fling." And Captain Young, 
unable to produce the proper papers at the demand of the 
vigilant alcalde., saw what an error he had committed. 

To arrest eighteen rough-and-ready American trappers 
and deprive them of their arms and outfits was rather more 
of a task than the small force at the alcalde's immediate 
service could manage. However, with true natural shrewd- 
ness taking advantage of the trappers' bent, he did not 
press the demand but encouraged his citizenship to show 
the visitors a good time. Abstinence had been over pro- 
longed ; the men were reckless ; and Captain Young presently 


had the chagrin of seeing his charges, plied with free brandy 
about to be made helpless and easy subjects for the calabozo. 
Moreover, he well knew that when reinforcements arrived 
(as soon they would) from San Gabriel and from the 
presidio of San Diego or Santa Barbara, he and his party, 
drunk or sober, would be in serious plight. 

The Patties, a year before, had been taken off their 
guard and arrested without valid reason whatsoever, con- 
fined at San Diego, and treated most harshly. Captain 
Young, trapping without papers, had really broken the 
law ; and this meant confiscation of all property, and impris- 
onment indefinitely. In the crisis he again put reliance upon 
youthful Carson, who, as was characteristic of him in after 
years, evidently had kept his head. Carson was directed to 
take three of the still somewhat sober men, and the extra 
horses, and to go on; if the captain and the other men did 
not catch up, in time, they were to be reported in Taos as 
having been " massacred " by the Mexicans of California. 
In that case, Captain Young probably had dreams of being 

Carson succeeded in getting his squad together and head- 
ing them into the country. The Calif ornians still hung 
about, but were hoist with their own petard. The other 
trappers had meanwhile waxed more turbulent, so that a 
free-for-all fight occurred among them. This would include 
knives and bullets ; James Higgins shot " Big Jim " Law- 
rence, and the Calif ornians temporarily withdrew to avoid 
damage. A trapper at a certain stage in his cups was apt 
to make less of killing either Indian or " greaser " than of 
killing a comrade. 

The short march to water and the night's sleep restored 
sense to the hardy mountain men, so that on the next day, 
under realization of their peril and again united with 
Carson, they hastened on until out of reach by pursuit. They 
recrossed the San Bernardino Desert, and after nine days' 


travel out of Los Angeles stood once more upon the brink of 
the Colorado. 

The homeward course was now pursued leisurely down 
the Colorado and up the Gila, with many stops to trap likely 
points. As the lower Colorado and the Gila were in the 
warm latitudes of Arizona, the party could trap all winter. 

The Colorado itself never could have been a first-class 
beaver stream; in those deep, rock-bound canons, between 
whose bare walls the waters run turgid and fierce, no beaver 
would live; only in the more placid spots and wider pock- 
ets which intervened now and then would the animal be 
found. But the progress of the Young party was not 
monotonous. The lower Colorado and the Gila also had 
been invaded sufficiently by white people Spanish, Mex- 
icans, and trappers to produce the usual friction with the 
Indians there. 

On the Colorado, while Kit Carson and two or three com- 
rades were taking care of camp, the other men being out 
running traps, a large body of Indians came in: probably 
Chemehuevi, who occupied a valley down from the mouth 
of the Bill Williams River, below the Mohaves ; or Yumas, 
who dominated the Rio Colorado from the Chemehuevi 
country to the gulf. Both are of a cunning, thievish nature. 
Weapons were concealed. beneath the visitors' blankets and 
shirts, and for a moment the camp must have been in a 
precarious position. Experience of many years has proven 
that in a case of this kind there is only the one thing to do. 
Promptness and boldness are necessary; Carson had both. 
At a word each trapper selected his man and held cocked 
rifle against him ; addressing one of the Indians who spoke 
Spanish, Carson ordered him to clear out, with his fellows, 
at once, or the whites would fire. When it comes to 
exchanging life for life the Indian balks; and the band sul- 
lenly left. They may not have planned any harm at all, 
but the trappers must be on the safe side. 


Having for four hundred miles followed down the Colo- 
rado, whose rocky canons, as they proceeded, became less 
frequent, and whose welcomed stretches of alluvial beaver 
ground grew more continuous, the Ewing Young trappers 
arrived at the flat intake of the Gila, in the southwestern 
extremity of Arizona. They turned from the Colorado 
(the prime trapping territory was still below) and entered 
the Gila. This river, the famous and romantic beaver stream 
of the Southwest, they ascended three hundred miles to the 
mouth of the San Pedro, above the present town of Florence 
in south central Arizona. 

A typical stream of the desert country of the Southwest, 
where sands and trap rock enclose fertile valleys, during the 
last four hundred miles of its course the Gila, at low water, 
averages one hundred feet wide and two or three feet deep ; 
now flowing through the green, now through the gray, and 
now through the whitish yellow. Where was brushy 
growth, beaver were. 

At the mouth of the San Pedro, which enters from the 
south above Florence, the trappers came upon a camp of 
those Apaches with whom they had had the brush in the 
previous spring. They promptly charged the camp, taking 
it by surprise, driving the Indians out and away, and taking 
possession of their animals. 

Then, that night, while the party were camped, in turn, 
they were aroused by the trampling of hoofs. More of the 
tribe were approaching, apparently from a raid into the 
Mexican borders, driving before them a large bunch of 
stock. No questions were asked and doubtless there was no 
time for such preliminaries. As promptly as before, the 
trappers poured in a volley, shot the Indians down or routed 
them, and on the theory that thieves have no property appro- 
priated the stock. 

This last herd contained two hundred or more horses. 
" To return the animals to their owners was an impossibil- 


ity," naively chronicles Peters; and in any case we cannot 
easily picture Captain Young or other old-time trapper rid- 
ing very far to restore to Mexicans their Apache-stolen 
stock. The Young party had thus brusquely accumulated 
many more horses and mules than they could manage, so 
they retained only the best, killed two for meat, and let the 
others go presumably for the Apaches to round up again ! 

Having thus effectually reestablished their claim to the 
country, the company continued to trap, ascending the Gila 
until, near its sources, across the line into what is today 
New Mexico, they were opposite the copper mines. Here 
they abandoned the river and proceeded south the sixty 
miles to the mines, where Robert McKnight still was mining 
and trading. 

The bales of pelts were stored in some of the old prospect 
holes and abandoned workings, McKnight engaged to look 
after them, and marching on with most of his men for 
Santa Fe, from the innocent authorities there Mr. Young 
procured license to trade with the Mimbrenos Apaches, 
who frequented the Mimbres River and the copper mines 
district. When, having journeyed to the mines, the party 
quickly returned to Santa Fe with a fine amount of beaver, 
" everyone considered the trappers had made a very good 

It is stated that the fur aggregated two thousand pounds 
which would be some fifteen hundred skins, as a beaver 
skin weighs about a pound and a quarter and that twelve 
dollars a pound was paid. If true, this price was excep- 
tional, six dollars a pound being top price usually in the 
industry, and the southern skins not being as prime as 
those of the cold North. 

The shares of the venture having been apportioned, every 
man with a pocketful of money, the expedition, in April, 
1830, just a year from departure, rode jubilantly into old 
" Touse." And right speedily old Touse was feeling the 


influx of the loose wealth. A trapper home again was like 
Jack in port. But when the money was gone there was 
more beaver. 22 

That the youthful Kit Carson performed his part in con- 
tributing to the gaiety of the home-coming we may not 
doubt. In after years he confessed that in his early days 
he was rash and quick; and now in token of being a full- 
fledged mountain man he probably did as his comrades did. 

Most readers will be interested to follow the adventures 
of Ewing Young to the end. California summoned him 
again. He left Taos in September, 1831, with Moses Car- 
son, Kit's elder brother, in his party, and trapped through 
to the coast, arriving there in April, 1832. Some time or 
other he essayed to cross the terrific Great Basin from the 
Salt Lake region to Upper California, direct. The sequel 
of this undertaking of the gallant old beaver trader was, 
that having traveled until his animals had exhausted their 
supply of fodder, and all had died, he cut food from their 
carcasses for himself and men and commenced his return 
to the lake. On the way five of his men perished. The cap- 
tain and the rest reached the lake in a wretched condition. 

After an exhaustive trapping tour up the northern Cali- 
fornia coast and backward again through California clear 
to the Gila, the veteran captain of trappers settled at Mon- 
terey. In 1834 he joined the company of Hall J. Kelly, 
bound for Oregon to colonize it for the Americans. In 
Oregon he located in the Willamette Valley and organized 
the " Wallamet Cattle Company," from which the Oregon 
settlers might obtain beef, and returning to California he 
made a drive of cattle and horses to Oregon. There he 
erected a whisky still only to abandon it at the request 
of the missionaries. " He was one of the three powers of 
the country the first being the Hudson Bay Company, the 
second the Methodist Mission, and the third Ewing 
Young." He died February 15, 1841, on his farm near the 


Willamette. He was a " man mysterious, a natural leader, a 
loyal American, courageous, of integrity, and honest," who, 
in 1829, pioneering across the desert to California, made 
of Kit Carson a mountain man and trapper, and brought 
out word of a new market. 


TN EVERY party of men banded together on a common 
* enterprise, there always are one or two who jump right 
to the front; who, by common consent, are given leader- 
ship. Kit Carson seems to have been such a character. 
Slight in stature, younger, perhaps, than any of the others, 
his reputation that of a roving teamster, a hard worker, 
and a Carson of frontier breed from the Boone's Lick dis- 
trict, he went out with Ewing Young upon the trapper's 
trail as a promising hand who yet had much to learn ; from 
that trip he came back Ewing Young's lieutenant, and a 
youth whose cool-headedness and decision already had 
placed him well above the average mountain man. 

So it was with some natural pride that he now might 
meet, in Taos or in Santa Fe, his elder brother Moses, and 
trade with him news of the trail for news of home. The 
brothers would not meet again for twelve, or more likely, 
fifteen years. 

The summer of 1830 would be spent by the majority of 
the returned trappers in Taos and Santa Fe, for they had 
plenty of money and the season (this being April) was 
advanced. By fall the money would be gone, the delights of 
town life would have palled, the beaver and the trail would 
call again. When in September word was spread that the 
Rocky Mountain Fur Company wanted good men, young 
Kit Carson, among others, enrolled his name. The destina- 
tion was the Northwest. The ever active Ewing Young 
already was in fresh enterprises. Whether he and Kit saw 


one another again is doubtful; but he had served his pur- 
pose in Carson's life. 

That Northwest country the upper Missouri and the 
Platte, and the Rockies of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, 
Idaho, Utah and beyond was then and continued to be 
for many years the real fur ground of the West. A few 
trappers, such as Ewing Young, made a specialty of the 
Southwest, principally because it was on a direct line out 
of the market, Santa Fe. 

Before Kit Carson had swapped the saddler's bench in 
old Franklin for the back of a mule on the Santa Fe Trail, 
the Northwest had been well traversed. The impetus given 
by Lewis and Clark had gained in momentum; and while 
the steady exodus into New Mexico was mainly along 
beaten lines staked out by a suspicious Latin government, 
that to the northwestward was without law and without 
restriction, diverging, as it traveled, where it pleased, free 
to seek out whatever spots were to its advantage. The 
trader established his fort, the trapper on his pony ranged 
through hill and plain. It was their country: essentially 
by right of exploration the mountain man's country; he who 
had succeeded to the voyageur and the coureur des bois of 
the eastern rivers and lakes. 

In the five years (1825-1830) which Kit Carson had 
spent as saddler, wrangler, cook, teamster, and finally trap- 
per, the Northwest had advanced rapidly, but its affairs were 
little changed on the surface. The Missouri Fur Company, 
in which Moses Carson had served, was defunct; while the 
great General Ashley, after having achieved a fortune by 
those splendid expeditions which he had sent out, and hav- 
ing retired from the mountains, was about to enter Con- 
gress, there to be stout exponent of the interests of the Far 

Three of that really brilliant company which enlisted 
under him Jedediah S. Smith, David E. Jackson and 


William L. Sublette bought his fur business from him. 
Smith has been noted as the first American overland into 
California. The name of Jackson comes down to us in the 
famous game resort, Jackson Hole, of northwestern Wyo- 
ming. Of William Sublette much might be said : a foremost 
partisan or captain of trappers, he, the best known among 
five brothers ; a fighter and a trader, one of the few recorded, 
besides Ashley, who " amassed a handsome fortune." 

This transfer had been made in July, 1826. To the part- 
nership, which never was known by title save as, occa- 
sionally, " Smith, Jackson & Co.," or " Smith, Jackson & 
Sublette," had succeeded in August, 1830, the Rocky Moun- 
tain Fur Company, formed by five other thorough mountain 
men, of whom two, at least, Thomas Fitzpatrick, and James 
Bridger, were graduates of the Ashley school. The three 
others were Milton Sublette, brother of William ; Jean Bap- 
tiste Gervais, unknown to fame because he has lacked a 
chronicler; and Henry Fraeb (commonly styled " Frapp "), 
destined to be slain by the Sioux and Cheyennes. 

Thus the Rocky Mountain Fur Company had come into 
existence, to continue business in the main Rocky Moun- 
tains, the Continental Divide being its especial field. Across 
in the Northwest reigned the Hudson Bay Company of 
Great Britain; old, powerful, autocratic, its feet upon the 
ruins of Astoria. But another fur company was already 
aiming to wrest from Fitzpatrick, Bridger and partners 
their legacy. This was the American Fur Company, child 
of John Jacob Astor of New York, whose Astoria had so 
failed ; with a western branch established in St. Louis, dur- 
ing Kit Carson's novitiate of four years in the Southwest 
it had waxed stronger, and was at last taking decisive steps 
for advancing from the Missouri River fur trade to the 
mountain fur trade. 

And the fur business was booming. Ashley had given it 
impetus; Kit Carson entered it in its heyday. Not yet had 


the western soil been turned by the plough of a settler ; the 
ground of plain and of valley was suffered to lie despised, 
while north of the Arkansas and west of Missouri the 
only incentive to the white man was trade and fur. By 
keelboat and by caravan the bales from post and rendezvous 
came pouring into St. Louis ; by keelboat and by caravan 
went forth the supplies to rendezvous and to post. Not, 
as in the North before the West was discovered, was traffic 
by water alone; now at the opening of this decade of Ameri- 
can supremacy in the trans-Mississippi country, the pack 
train threading lone plan and wooded pass, bearing its 
cargo, was a recognized institution. 

The trading posts were the fur country's principal pro- 
tection. They were little forts, established in the Indian 
precincts, and semi-military. They already extended along 
the Missouri to its headwaters and well up along the Platte. 
Beyond the Rockies were the posts of the Hudson Bay Com- 
pany, encouraging a flow of furs westward, not eastward. 
The only aggressive military occupation of the country had 
been an expedition (boat and horse) up the Missouri to the 
mouth of the Yellowstone in Montana, by General Atkinson 
in 1825, and in 1827 the establishing of Fort Leavenworth 
on the Missouri in northeastern Kansas. 

The Missouri frontier had advanced one hundred and 
fifty miles, from old Franklin to Independence, toward the 
mouth of the Kaw or Kansas River where Kansas City now 
stands. At Independence landing the goods for the Santa 
Fe trade were unloaded, and from Independence went trail- 
ing out into the dusty Southwest the long caravans, as of 
yore, save that oxen were supplanting mules for teams. 
Franklin, once " a center of wealth and fashion," was 
approaching its early decay, and soon was to be abandoned 
its graveyard alone remaining as token of the days that 

The Northwest was still forging ahead of the Southwest, 


despite the constantly increasing Santa Fe business. To 
be sure, beside the mountains south of the Platte, in United 
States territory, during Kit Carson's novitiate, had been 
founded, in 1829, Bent's Fort; two hundred miles north 
of Taos, upon the " mountain " Santa Fe Trail up the 
Arkansas. But from Bent's Fort northward through Col- 
orado to Wyoming there was not a white man's habita- 
tion, other than the rude trapper's lodge, as movable as 
the tipi of the Indian. As said, up into the Northwest 
from St. Louis to the mountains, post after post had been 
established. Such posts had even crossed the mountains, 
tentatively feeling their way, to meet the Hudson Bay Com- 
pany posts inward creeping from the Pacific ; while the Salt 
Lake, the Green River, the Henry Fork of the Snake, and 
the Snake itself in Idaho were becoming to St. Louis, base 
of supplies, as household words. The Rockies were indeed 
better known to the East than were the plains. 

Such, briefly sketched, is a bird's-eye view of the West 
when Kit Carson, in this September, 1830, as a seasoned 
hand, entered in earnest into the trapper calling ; from now 
on he mingled as an equal with the most skilled frontiers- 
men hunters, trappers, fighters, and scouts in one that 
the world has produced. We know but little of that com- 
pany with whom he traveled to California and back ; it must 
have contained experts, good men and true; but when he 
engaged with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company he entered 
a different atmosphere, where the gay, active homme du 
nord coureur or voyageur transplanted from Mak- 
inaw, vied with the Illinoisan and the Kentuckian; where 
the mighty pine-clad slopes of the snow-capped mountains 
invited ever to fresh endeavors; where the air was full 
of energy, and where the Indian, even, was of type superior 
to the cowardly Apache and the lethargic, squash-raising 

Carson served only intermittently with the Rocky Moun- 


tain Fur Company. Although it existed, under its title, but 
four years, yet for its stirring history and for the men 
connected with it early and late this company should 
be famous. It had rivals, better known; the American 
Fur Company, whose boast was to be designated simply 
as "The Company," and the Hudson Bay Company; but 
in its search for fur it opened up that wonderful territory 
now comprising Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and 
Utah; in the Rocky Mountain center of the United States 
it reigned, for a time, supreme; and it educated the major- 
ity of the scouts and guides who in after day piloted across 
the wilderness army detachment and colonist column. 

From Taos there was a good 300 miles of travel before 
traps should be set. Four trapper trails were available. 
They led by the one route (the caravan road) north from 
the town and over the Raton Range down to the Arkansas, 
long miles, where Bent's Fort had been located. Thence 
one trail diverged west, up the Arkansas, into the mountains 
loo miles away, and where Canon City is located at 
the mouth of the famed Royal Gorge crossed by a Ute 
and Arapaho trail to the north and into South Park. An- 
other trail branched from this one where Pueblo, Colorado, 
is located, followed up Fountain Creek, toward Colorado 
Springs, and turning into the Manitou country crossed by 
a pass here for South Park and the regions beyond. This 
also was an Indian-made trail. A third trail, instead of 
turning into the west at Colorado Springs proceeded on 
northward, over the little divide between the Arkansas and 
the Platte, about as the various railroads skirting the foot- 
hills from Denver south now run, and at Denver's site, enter- 
ing the mountains along a trail later widened by the South 
Park stages, climbed " over the hill," passed the future min- 
ing center of Breckinridge, and dipping down, in the north 
end of Middle Park, joined with the two other trails, before 
mentioned, at the "junction." The fourth trail, essen- 


tially a trappers' and traders' trail (although all these old 
trails were cut first by the elk, the buffalo, and the red man), 
from the Arkansas at Bent's Fort or about the mouth of 
the Purgatoire stretched almost straightaway into the 
north, traversing the plains well out from the foothills, 
passing thirty miles east of Colorado Springs and consid- 
erably east of Denver, and striking into the South Platte 
about at the mouth of the Cache la Poudre, or just east 
of the present town of Greeley. Thence it continued north 
to the Laramie. 

The second trail mentioned that up the Fountaine qui 
Bouille Creek, and through Manitou and over was the 
favorite. I am inclined to think that the Kit Carson party 
took this. The routes skirting the foothills or through the 
plains traversed what was known as the " neutral strip " 
a highway, from the Arkansas to the Platte, about 
thirty miles wide, which was a debatable ground of all 
the tribes; Crows, Sioux, Blackfeet, Cheyennes, Snakes, 
Utes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, and even the Comanches and the 
Apaches. Consequently no traveler here could consider 
himself safe. 

Engaged not as hired trappers but as " skin " trappers, 
who had contracted only to sell their pelts to the Rocky 
Mountain Company, the Kit Carson detachment followed 
into the fur country by the trail up the Fountain. And we 
can see them, Frenchman, American, Irishman, half-breed 
Mexican, with long hair, long rifles, fringed buckskins, 
broad hats, short stirrups, in compact yet mobile squad, 
at trappers' rack or cow pony trot, pressing on into the 
hills ; around the foot of Pike's Peak, past the boiling soda 
spring where today the gaiety of a pleasure resort has suc- 
ceeded the Manitou rites of the Indians, through the strange 
red-rock region of the Garden of the Gods, over the ridge 
and on. Behind and about, naught for which they par- 
ticularly cared; before, beaver, Injun, and maybe death. 23 


Simultaneously with this expedition of the fall of 1830, 
which took Kit Carson into the mountains, occurred two 
other events of importance in the opening of the far West. 
The keel of the steamboat Yellowstone was being laid, at 
Louisville, Kentucky, on commission from the American 
Fur Company, and thus was born the first steamboat to 
ascend the upper Missouri. With the next spring it entered 
the fur trade, thus greatly facilitating the operations of the 
company which was to crush and absorb the Rocky Moun- 
tain Company. And as Kit Carson started for the North- 
west, William Wolfskill (Wolf scale), with a party of trad- 
ers, broke a new trail, soon to be, and long to remain, 
popular as the " Old Spanish Trail," through to California. 

This trail, at best only a saddle and pack trail, from Santa 
Fe and Abiqui pointed northwest, up the Chama, from the 
headwaters thereof rounding north of the San Juan River 
and cutting the southwest corner of Colorado. Passing 
north of Durango city, and of Cortez town (Colorado) 
it paralleled for some distance the Dolores River; thence 
diverged westerly to enter Utah, striking present Moab 
and crossing the Green about where the railroad crosses 
now. It passed into the west by Castledale, and bending 
south, by way of Fillmore (Utah) and the Parowan coun- 
try, following down the Virgin to the mouth of that river 
it swerved off for the Smith and Young route across the 
San Bernardino Desert, the Cajon Pass of the Sierra 
Madre Mountains, and Los Angeles. 

A portion of this trail, or that in southwestern Colorado, 
had been broken by the Spanish explorer, Juan Maria Rivera, 
from Santa Fe, in 1761 ; it was) better and further broken 
by the padre Francisco Silvestre Velez Escalante, in 1776; 
for that reason it may have been termed the " Old Spanish 
Trail." The names such as Dolores, Piedra, Las Animas, 
Ancapagari (Uncompahgre) applied by Escalante linger 


William Wolf skill, then, enthused by the new report of 
Ewing Young, in the fall of 1830 revived a portion of the 
Trail of the Father, and pushed the terminus through to 
California. It was a longer and more circuitous route 
than the southern routes; but it afforded, through the first 
half, grass and water, and it avoided the canons of the 
Colorado Plateau, where Ewing Young had struggled. And 
the Old Spanish Trail, the inception of which was the glory 
of God and the Catholic Faith, became highway for horse 
trader and horse thief ; and, still later, as between the Utah 
desert country and New Mexico, known as the " Durango 
Trail " it became famous for cattle drives and bandit flights. 

But to return to Kit Carson. The first traps were set on 
the North Platte River, probably in what is today North 
Park, of Colorado; for through Middle Park from South 
Park trended the trappers' trail from Taos by way of the 
mountain route. Trapping down the Platte, and across the 
Wyoming line< while the river ran now pebbly, now 
smooth, with wide curves washing sage flats and high 
brushy hills the fur hunters arrived at the Sweetwater, 
flowing into the Platte from the west. Up this Sweet- 
water the Taos squad turned, facing west for the snowy 
ranges and the country that bided beyond. 

Pleasantly falls upon the ear the word " Sweetwater " 
word which meant so much to those thirsty emigrants 
who along this Indian and trapper bridle path, ascending 
the rapid stream, found a way open to the Salt Lake, 
Oregon, and California. For the Sweetwater formed a 
most important link in the trans-continental route of old; 
at its source was South Pass, over which might pour down, 
buoyed by the vain trust that at last they were " across the 
Rockies," colonist, Mormon, and gold seeker. It was Ore- 
gon Trail, Mormon Trail, and Trail of the Forty-niner. 

What white man first ventured over the original Indian 
track made by Crow, Black feet, Snake, and marauding 


Sioux from the Black Hills eastward, we may not know. 
But it is safe to say that; the indefatigable General Ashley 
was close upon his heels. The French negro, Creole Jim 
Beckwourth, Crow chief (in time), intimates that in 1823 
he and an Ashley party passed this way. In the fall of 
1825 another Ashley company adopted the route, and the 
next spring the doughty general himself, lured from his 
bride of six months, traveled through by the same course, 
trundling overland to the rendezvous at Salt Lake a six- 
pounder cannon herald, it, of those countless creaking, 
white-topped vehicles preparing. 

In 1827 up the Platte and the Sweetwater trail, from 
Council Bluffs for 1 the Salt Lake Valley had marched 
Joshua Pilcher, of the declining Missouri Fur Company, 
with forty-five men and more than one hundred horses, to 
emulate the celebrated Ashley's successes. And in the 
spring of 1830 had passed up also William Sublette, of 
Smith, Jackson & Co., with eighty-one men upon mules, 
ten wagons of merchandise, two Dearborn carriages, some 
cattle, and a milch cow, bound for the last rendezvous of this 
company, in the Wind River Valley. 

Many smaller parties, recorded and unrecorded, had been 
coming and going, through the dozen years, so that the 
Sweetwater trail was well defined. 

" L' Eau Sucree " the stream is called in early records 
the language another tribute to the French Canadian 
who through the West as through the North blazed a way 
for the Anglo-Saxon to follow " L' Eau Sucree," or 
Sweetened Water, a pack mule laden with sugar having, 
one time, been capsized in the current; or, according to 
Missionary White, " a company were once passing the 
stream, and during a drunken carousal, emptied into it 
a large bag of sugar, thereby, as they said, christening it, 
and declaring it should hereafter be called Sweetwater Val- 
ley, as long as water ran." 24 


Of the two explanations the former is the more credible; 
for sugar in the mountains was too valuable a commodity 
to be thrown away by the bag. However, neither need be 
accepted; the title in English may stand of itself, fully 
merited by this invigorating, life-saving creek flowing so 
bravely amidst potash, and salt, alkali, and other bitterness. 

Above the mouth of the Sweetwater would be encoun- 
tered Independence Rock, an isolated, sudden outcrop into 
the sagy, desolate plain. Like to Pawnee Rock of the 
Santa Fe Trail, and to El Moro, or Inscription Rock of the 
Conquistador's trail through Zuni of Arizona, was this land- 
mark, famed to the Indians, the trappers, and the Oregon 
Trail: a signboard or bulletin board, so to speak, for all 
who passed. But the names scratched and painted upon it 
were as yet comparatively few. 

It is the first appearance of a strange ridge of granite masses, 
near a hundred miles long, which stand in the midst of a great 
plain, in a direction perpendicular to that of the Rocky Moun- 
tains. The Sweet Water for nearly half its course, from the 
South Pass to the Platte, runs near its southern base. Some of 
the dome-like elevations are about 1,500 feet high; apparently 
no tree or shrub no beast or bird relieves its stern and life- 
less gray; its monumental solemnity. For how many ages, 
since its upheaval by the primitive fires, has it stood change- 
less in summer heats and wintry storms in untrodden soli- 
tude; in awful silence. 25 

It is about five miles up stream from Independence Rock 
that the ridge actually begins; and through a fissure in 
its lower extremity issues the Sweetwater, boiling out from 
the hill country. This fissure is Devil's Gate a spec- 
tacular gorge which excited the wonder of the early trav- 
elers. And I am dwelling upon these features of the Sweet- 
water trail, for we must bear in mind that this was Kit 
Carson's first trip as a trapper into the genuine Rockies. 
The Sweetwater was an Ashley trail, opened by the men 



(From Report of the March of the Rifle Regiment to Oregon, 1849) 



(From Report of the March of the Rifle Regiment to Oregon, 1849) 

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pa d 5 w 
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whom Kit was at last meeting, and was destined to be the 
Oregon Trail, peopling with Americans the British North- 

The Sweetwater trail of the trappers and those who fol- 
lowed led around the gorge of the Devil's Gate, and over 
the ridge. But the custom was to ride aside, to the brink 
of the gorge, and look down in. The depth is some four 
hundred feet; the width at the bottom estimated as about 
one hundred ; the length, one thousand ; and the " deep- 
toned roar," the " dizzy awe of the downward view," the 
walls " frowning gloomily above the abyss which had sun- 
dered them forever," seem to have impressed all beholders. 

Above Devil's Gate extends westward for eighty miles 
the Valley of the Sweetwater barren slopes and potash 
flats on either hand, with the river's course, interrupted fre- 
quently by the granite ridge which has been erupted in the 
middle, wandering between them. The result is a succes- 
sion of charming verdurous pockets, where in Kit Carson's 
day were found buffalo, mountain sheep, antelope, deer, 
grizzly bear, and sage chickens. Short defiles, like minia- 
ture Devil's Gates, exist; one gained the name Hell Gate, 
" so called for being the place where eleven whites were 
once cut off by the Indians." 26 

Beyond this gap, twenty-five miles above Devil's Gate, 
is first disclosed, as a rule, the hoary, wild Wind River range 
far in the northwest, at whose southern base was held the 
rendezvous of 1830, when the Rocky Mountain Fur Com- 
pany received new foster parents and new christening. 
Well might young Kit Carson, with this trapper band now 
ascending the Sweetwater, gaze, mysteriously moved, at the 
silently waiting frontage of the grandest realm ever ruled 
by trappers. 

The Kit Carson party continued on, up the length of the 
Sweetwater and over the great divide by the already famed 
Southern Pass the South Pass of the modern map, 


discovered in the fall of 1822, by Etienne Prevost. Bleak, 
wide, and open is this South Pass, and of rise so gradual 

that but for our geographical knowledge, and the imposing 
landmarks on our right (the snow-capped peaks of the Wind 
River Mountains raising their cold, spiral, and barren sum- 
mits to a great elevation), we should not have been conscious 
that we had ascended to, and were standing upon the summit 
of the Rocky Mountains the backbone, to use a forcible 
figure, of the North American Continent. 27 

However, it required no guideboards to prove that it was 
the Continental Divide. The Sweetwater, in dwindling 
volume, had been hastening eastward; but from Pacific 
Spring the waters went trickling westward. Furthermore, 
every trapper knew that when speckled trout were found 
in the streams, then the Pacific side of the continent had 
been reached. 

So this was Oregon this farther slope of the smooth 
swell. Traveling on, the party struck the headwaters of 
the Green River, in western Wyoming, trapped these to the 
beginnings, crossed westward into David E. Jackson's 
favorite quarters of Jackson Hole, continued on into Idaho, 
clear to the Salmon River, and meeting here other trap- 
pers, " a band of their own party, who had left Taos some 
days in advance of the main body, and for whom they were 
then hunting," went into winter camp with them upon the 
Salmon River, among the friendly Nez Perce Indians. 

A survey of the map will indicate the distance covered 
by this one outward trip of the fall of 1830; but it will 
scarcely indicate the tremendous energy and toil involved. 
Yet this whole journey, from Taos of New Mexico to the 
Salmon River of northern Idaho, in the life of Carson pre- 
sumed to have been dictated by himself, occupies only eleven 
lines ; of such little moment was it considered. 

Now about to " winter in," Kit Carson had seen the 


nature of this much-reputed beaver country of the North- 
west; snow-crowned mountain ranges, crystal, rushing 
streams, green valleys flanked by dense pines and firs and 
spruces, tremendous canons of red rock and gray rock, 
chasm and crest alike impassable, patches of " bad lands," 
wilderness of park and peak, alive with game and threaded 
by the Indian and the pelt hunter. 28 


I T IS the way of the West to receive the newcomer with 
* a certain proper reservation, and to take little on hear- 
say. When Kit Carson entered the mountains he found 
there men who had been in service longer than himself, 
and who had already shown the stuff that was in them. 
Jim Bridger, the Sublettes, Fitzpatrick, old Hugh Glass, 
Black Harris, and a score and more of others educated 
in the Missouri Fur Company, the Ashley, the Smith, and 
even the Astoria school, were ahead of him, comprising a 
company of the Old Guard. Not until the spring of 1833 
do we find even a mention of Carson ; but then, as " among 
the gamest of the trappers," at last he is credited to the 
ranks of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. It must 
be remembered that in 1830 he was yet only a youth. 

Now to guarantee a chronological account of Carson's 
career for the succeeding dozen years, until in 1842 he joins 
with Fremont, involves the ambitious biographer in a maze 
worse than the canoned labyrinths of the Snake itself. The 
times were distinguished by deeds, not days ; and the move- 
ment of events was so rapid, so reiterative, that year 
blended with year in a vaguely defined procession. The 
beaver hunter thought more in the present and the future 
than upon the past; and yesterday was always dead and 
cast aside. 

So in reading the narrative of W. A. Ferris, of Zenas 
Leonard, of Jim Beckwourth, of Captain James Hobbs, 
the historian with dates at his command is hopelessly 



The adventures of Kit Carson, while probably not' more 
varied nor more perilous than those of other mountain 
men such as Jim Bridger, Joe Meek and their companions, 
are fully indicative of the life upon the beaver trail, and 
well bear out the assertion that " wherever railroads now 
run, and trails are followed, Kit Carson led the way; and 
his footprints are all along the route." 

From the commencement of his mountain career he was 
a wandering trapper, always with a tendency to hunt for 
himself a tendency which his marked ability in the most 
trying situations made most practicable. He must speedily 
have became a welcome addition to any squad, as well as 
a personage amply sufficient to himself, did he choose to 
hunt upon his own account. 

In their winter quarters (1830-1831) upon the Salmon, 
the men repaired their outfits, killed game for food, and 
loafed. But they were not safe from the dreaded Black- 
feet; four of their number, while hunting buffalo, were sur- 
rounded and slain. Barring this bad luck, in the spring the 
party emerged in good condition. Young Kit Carson was 
a hivernan or winterer; and he had celebrated his twenty- 
first birthday. 29 

In April the spring trapping was begun. A course was 
laid across country to reach the Snake River, southward. 
This took the party through a grim, jagged country, dark 
and forbidding; and when the Snake was attained it must 
have proved, after all, poor trapping ground. A fierce, 
hostile river is the great Snake. It rushes, along its upper 
course, through stretches of gloomy lava, the outpouring 
of ancient volcanic action. In places its bed is a thousand 
and more feet down, its water inaccessible. Three massy 
falls are to be found, between the Henry Fork at the 
Snake's sources and the mouth of the Salmon, whereon Kit 
Carson spent his winter; they rival Niagara, and rapids 
are many. 


However, occasionally the Snake pours out of its gorges 
into meadow lands, and coming with much labor to such 
spots, the trappers found beaver. 

From the upper Snake the party crossed over, southward 
a few miles, to the Bear, which flows south into the Great 
Salt Lake. From the Bear they turned north, to the Green 
River, and reached the place of summer rendezvous; the 
lovely Green River Valley. 

Here they found, under William Sinclair of Arkansas, 
fifteen men of a company which had left New Mexico, via 
Taos, that spring of 1831. Some of these men were 
destined to travel on even to California, and there to be 
prominent settlers; but for Sinclair this was the last ren- 
dezvous save one. At the close of the next summer's gath- 
ering, in Pierre's Hole, of northeastern Idaho, he was 
killed during a great battle between the assembled trappers 
and some Blackfeet. 

This annual market, or rendezvous, of 1831 did not 
prove very successful, for Thomas Fitzpatrick, who in the 
spring had left for St. Louis to bring back trading supplies 
and other necessary goods, did not appear. Either Kit 
Carson was dissatisfied, or the wandering spirit that marks 
his trapper years was manifesting itself, for learning from 
the Sinclair party that a Captain Gant was trapping east 
of the mountains, and his engagement with the Rocky 
Mountain Company evidently having expired, he and four 
associates proceeded to seek the banner of the captain. 
Possibly, also, Taos was in their minds, and they counted 
upon trapping their way back to the New Mexico provinces. 

They worked under Captain Gant that fall, trapping the 
Laramie Plains; thence southward across many a ridge, 
to search other streams. Through wild scenes of snow 
peaks, dense timber, foaming torrents, sheer canons, flowery 
meadows, and aspen dales they traveled ever down the 
middle of Colorado, and came out into Colorado's South 


Park, the headwaters of the South Platte River. Being 
heavily laden with their fur, they struck east for the plains, 
and, emerging upon the Arkansas River near the foothills, 
they halted and established camp. 

Captain Gant and a companion or two proceeded south- 
eastward to Taos, to deposit the furs and to get supplies. 
When they returned winter was setting in. So upon the 
Arkansas was located the winter camp. And a hard 
winter it was, with the usual forage deeply covered by 
snow. Had the party not been enabled to cull cottonwood 
bark and willow bark and branches, the horses and the 
mules would surely have perished. For the men themselves 
there were plenty of buffaloes, collected in the bottoms and in 
the gulches. 

In January a party of fifty Crows, who had wandered this 
far upon a midwinter excursion from their village on the 
Big Horn in Wyoming, stole upon the trappers' camp by 
night and drove off nine horses. In the morning the theft 
was discovered. Kit Carson, naturally a leader here as he 
had been when with Ewing Young in California, imme- 
diately headed twelve men and followed hard upon the 
Indians' trail. This trended north, for the country of 
the Crows. 

It was a difficult task, for during the night buffaloes had 
moved hither and thither, treading upon the tracks. The 
horses that the pursuers were riding were in poor condi- 
tion because of the strenuous winter ; and after forty miles 
had been put behind it was thought best to camp and rest 
in a patch of trees descried just before. But smoke was 
curling out from the timber; the Crows themselves were 

The trappers halted quickly, and concealing themselves 
and their mounts cautiously reconnoitered. The Crows had 
established a permanent camp in two divisions, protected 
by brush and logs against the weather and against attack. 


They were dancing the theft of the nine horses, picketed just 
outside one of the breastworks. 

The trappers watched and waited for darkness to come. 
A cold job was this, for they could not make a fire, and 
they were traveling light. But when finally the Indians 
had danced enough and eaten enough, and had lain down 
to sleep, Kit Carson and five comrades, crawling nearer 
through the snow, cut, with fingers numbed, the nine horses' 
picket ropes. Then they threw pieces of snow at the horses 
to drive them off toward the other trappers. This was 
accomplished so deftly that even the Indians' dogs had not 
been disturbed. 

The majority of the trappers then declared in favpr of 
retiring, with the re-captured stock, to the camp upon the 
Arkansas; for the weather was bitter and supplies were 
meager. But the impetuous young Carson and two or 
three others said that the Indians should be punished; the 
forty-mile pursuit and the cold wait should exact a penalty. 
This opinion carried; and leaving three men to care for 
the horses, the remaining trappers walked boldly upon the 
camp of the Crows. 

Their rapid approach over the creaking snow was heard. 
A dog barked. The Indians in one of the little fortifica- 
tions sprang to their feet. At the cracks of the trappers' 
rifles some of them fell ; the others ran for the breastworks 
of the second division, to unite with their fellows. 

And now, in the winter half-light, just before dawn, 
amidst this snow-bound wilderness, back and forth spat 
the rifles the ten trappers behind trees, the two score 
Indians behind their breastworks. 

At break of day the savages charged. They were driven 
back. Soon, knowing how few the trappers were, they des- 
perately charged again so desperately that the trappers 
in turn were forced to retreat. From tree to tree they 
fought; the three men left to guard the horses came up 


on the run, as reinforcement. At last, by withdrawing, each 
side signified that it had had enough ; the Crows retired into 
their camp, the trappers with their horses along the back 
trail to the camp upon the Arkansas. 

The Indians had lost a number of men; the trappers, 
according to their report as it comes to us today, suffered 
but a few wounds. 

Kit Carson and the whole party might well consider that 
they had come off fortunately in this little set-to. They had 
regained their horses and had punished the thieves. How- 
ever, Indian troubles were thickening around them and 
even their own men were soon to play them a scurvy trick. 

When spring came it was decided by Captain Gant to 
return to the old beaver ground of the North Platte and 
the Laramie rivers, in New Park and southern Wyoming 
adjacent. So the fur accumulated since the captain's trip 
to Taos was " cached " and the start northward was begun. 
But they had scarcely reached the South Park when one 
evening two men were missing. 

Supposing that they might have straggled, the party waited 
twenty- four hours; and then Carson and a companion 
were dispatched back, by Captain Gant, to the Arkansas. 
They were sent, because now the suspicion had arisen that 
those " stragglers " had deserted, and were hurrying to 
rob the cache of fur. When the two riders arrived, the 
cache had been torn open, and the 300 pounds of fur, beaver 
and otter chiefly, were gone. Neither the two missing men 
nor the furs bearing the Gant & Blackwell private mark 
ever were heard of again. 

Why Carson and his partner remained here instead of 
returning to Gant in the Bayou Salade we may not under- 
stand. To be sure, the aspens and the cottonwoods were 
unfolding their leaves, as signal for the Indians to mount 
their ponies and ride upon their annual spring forays; but 
the trail between the winter camp and the Bayou Salade 


had been traversed twice, and two skilled mountain men 
would not have been deterred from attempting it a third 
time. However, there may have been signs that hostiles 
the Crows, the Sioux, the Blackfeet, even the Arapahos 
were hovering about ; for in the Indian country the 
spring is the most dangerous season. Therefore perhaps 
it was by discretion, or perhaps by orders to await Captain 
Blackwell, that Carson and partner now remained in the 
old winter camp on the upper Arkansas. 

This they strengthened. It is likely that the Indian 
signs were portentous, for we read that the two hunted 
only in company, and maintained a constant guard. In 
about a month Captain Blackwell, Gant's associate in busi- 
ness, with supplies and fifteen new trappers, from St. Louis, 
appeared, having come out by the Bent's Fort branch of 
the Santa Fe Trail. 

About at the same time there entered four men from 
the Gant camp, who had back-tracked to meet Captain 
Blackwell and incidentally to find what had happened to 
Carson and his partner. The Indians certainly must have 
been on bad behavior, and the trails must have been encom- 
passed closely by eager savages of many tribes, for as the 
report goes the Gant camp had given Carson and partner 
up for lost. But now all rode northward for the Bayou 
Salade, two hundred miles. 

This Bayou Salade, or Salt Marsh, forms the source of 
the South Fork of the South Platte River, in Colorado's 
South Park. A famous place it was, in trapper days. The 
salty waters oozing amidst the bottoms attracted vast quan- 
tities of buffalo and other animals; the winters were con- 
sidered mild ; and both the Utes of the mountains, and the 
Arapahos of the plains claimed it as a special hunting 
ground. Many battles for it occurred. Everybody, trap- 
pers and savages, knew of the Bayou Salade, and all trails 
converged there. / 


From the Arkansas a trail led north past the foothills, 
up the Fountain Creek, and westward, to the Fontaine 
Qui Bouille or celebrated Boiling Spring. This was the 
Manitou of the Indians a sacred spring where members 
of all tribes pilgrimaged to " make medicine " to the great 
Manitou, or God, and to deposit offerings. The bottom of 
the spring was covered with beads and amulets. Today this 
spot still is Manitou, and, thus known, is a resort annually 
visited by thousands of sight-seers, who drink the waters, 
climb Pike's Peak, and explore the Garden of the Gods. 

Skirting this fantastic red Garden of the Gods, the trail 
led from the Boiling Spring, and climbing the mountain 
divide behind, wound on for the Bayou Salade. 

Over such a trail, worn smooth through the centuries 
by countless Indian moccasins, proceeded the Blackwell 
party. On the fourth day, while the camp was at its early 
breakfast in the cool gray ness among the fragrant sage 
and pines, the crack of the sentry's rifle and a loud whoop 
from him spread sudden alarm. As the men sprang to 
their guns, down charged a band of Indians for the horses. 
But these fortunately had been hobbled, as well as picketed. 
So that at the volley the Indians swerved, and fled, leaving 
a dead warrior and taking only one animal. 

The camp hastily packed, and made a forced march of 
fifty miles. The Indian signs ceased; it was hoped that 
there would be no more trouble, and accordingly the tired 
trappers went into camp upon the bank of a little stream, 
tributary to the Arkansas. 

The barking of one of their faithful mongrel dogs 
aroused them. They could find no reason for his barking; 
but to be safer they brought their horses in closer, and 
posted an extra guard. After that nothing especial hap- 
pened, and morning broke with the camp and its horses 
unmolested. It was decided that the dog must have barked 
at a coyote. 


Kit Carson and three others rode to explore for beaver. 
Returning, trotting along and chatting carelessly, as they 
rounded a curve in their trail they abruptly met almost face 
to face four Indians, armed and painted and mounted for 
war. The trappers hesitated not an instant. They charged 
at a gallop; and pursuing the Indians closely they found 
themselves decoyed into the midst of sixty more reds, the 
main war party. 

Now is demonstrated how instantaneously and for the 
best, like the mind of wild animal or domestic cat, the mind 
of the mountain man could act. Without slackening pace 
or firing a shot the party continued headlong on, received 
at twenty paces a volley of bullet and arrow, and still reply- 
ing not but reserving the menace of their loaded guns, burst 
the half circle and actually escaped. 

The astonished Indians did not pursue which was 
just as well for the trappers, since two of them had been 
severely wounded. However, as to trappers' eyes it was now 
evident that the savages were upon the warpath and lately 
had been in an affray, the four whites rode hard and with 
no little anxiety for the camp. They found it intact, but 
with another man wounded in an onslaught by this very 
band. An attempt had been made upon the camp horses; 
the loose stock had been run off, and four of the whites, 
pursuing, had regained it only after an exchange of shots, 
during which an Indian was killed and a trapper wounded. 
Naturally this had not sweetened the temper of the reds, 
and Kit Carson and three companions spoke truly when 
they claimed that " they had retained their scalps by a very 
narrow shave." 

With one of the wounded men borne in a rude litter, the 
Blackwell party resumed its march for the Gant camp in the 
Bayou Salade. 

Captain Gant seems to have been one of those whom 
Fortune does not meet halfway. It was he who com- 


manded the party of seventy men, out of St. Louis in the 
spring of 1831 (a year back), with whom served that 
Zenas Leonard whose narrative of mountain life has been 
previously referred to. In the summer of 1831, having 
reached the mountain beaver country at the Laramie Plains, 
the party divided into three detachments, and were never 
reunited. Mr. Blackwell returned with Fitzpatrick, who 
passed, to St. Louis for supplies for next year. Captain Gant 
disappears from knowledge, but he evidently makes his hunt 
southward, and Carson is of his company in 1831-32. As is 
seen, Mr. Blackwell comes out on time, with supplies. 

Now, with the middle spring of 1832 Captain Gant and 
Captain Blackwell were in the Bayou Salade, and little had 
been done except to fight Indians. The agreement with 
the two other parties provided a meeting this spring, at the 
mouth of the Laramie. The meeting did not occur. 

To be sure, the course was laid north, into Colorado's 
Old Park, or Middle Park. But the season was well along, 
and Old Park had been trapped ahead of them. The out- 
look grew less and less encouraging, and the men grew 
disheartened. In the dissolution which resulted (and which 
caused the firm of Gant and Blackwell to be reported 
through the mountains as insolvent), Carson and two com- 
rades diverged for an expedition upon their own account. 
They wisely plunged into the timber regions ; and while the 
Indians were hunting buffalo on the plains and in the parks, 
they trapped unmolested. 

Captain Gant, discouraged as a trapper, returned to the 
Arkansas and entered into trading relations with the 
Arapahos. Of Captain Blackwell we do not hear again. 

On the more sequestered streams of central and western 
Colorado Carson and his companions finished out the trap- 
ping season successfully; and as free trappers, in the sum- 
mer took their furs to Taos. 

By so doing they missed the rendezvous of 1832, in 


Pierre's Hole, at the close of which occurred the day-long 
battle, famed through Irving and many another chronicler, 
between four hundred and more trappers, Flatheads, and 
Nez Perces, and fifty Blackfeet warriors entrenched in a 
swampy copse. William Sinclair was killed, William Sub- 
lette was badly wounded, and the honors of the fight 
remained with the Blackfeet, who silently escaped by night. 
At this rendezvous appeared, for a baptism of fire, 
Nathaniel J. Wyeth, the Cambridge youth, who had been 
convoyed with the remnants of his Boston company by the 
supply train of William Sublette, thus far upon his road 
that he might embark in " some business enterprise," its 
nature yet undecided, on the Columbia. Wyeth at once 
showed his spirit, and having placed his greenhorns behind 
their packs, himself led to the attack a squad of trappers 
and friendlies. And here likewise were initiated into ren- 
dezvous ways Zenas Leonard and some of his fellows, 
refugees from the disorganized command of Gant and 
Blackwell. Other notables present were Robert Campbell, 
William Subletted friend and partner; t\vo grandsons of 
Daniel Boone, Jim Bridger, Andrew Drips, Vanderburgh 
(soon to die), Fitzpatrick' the last named just emerged 
from a terrific hide-and-seek game with the Blackfeet, his 
form emaciated and his hair grayed thereby so as to make 
him almost unrecognizable all men whom we shall meet 
later in these pages. 

en ^ 


WHEN with the spring of 1832 young Kit Carson and 
his two comrades departed from the sinking Gant 
and Blackwell ship to make their voyage independently, 
with Taos as their home port, the fur business of the 
mountains was at the flood. 

As has been said, the country of the far West was becom- 
ing a land cris-crossed by the moccasined foot of the Amer- 
ican trapper, and in the past decade the restless beaver 
hunter from the States had penetrated virtually through- 
out the Northwest and Southwest, between Missouri and 
the coast. The salient features were accurately mapped 
by the trapper in trapper mind a mind tenacious, like 
that of Jim Bridger, who, in later days, with a piece of 
charcoal could sketch offhand a range, its passes and val- 
leys, upon a piece of upturned buffalo hide. 

It still was a land of romance. Even to the practical 
mountain men it held many an ultima Thule, strangely 
peopled like the shores of mythology. For among the 
trappers were Gullivers, Hakluyts, Marco Polos, Munchau- 
sens. An island in the Salt Lake was for some years yet 
to be invested by a race of giants, whose enormous cut 
timbers from time to time washed ashore. In the depths 
of the desert of the Colorado and of the Great Basin dwelt 
other giants armed with clubs. There were cafioned cities, 
pent from the world, wherein lived as of yore descendants 
of the Montezuma, fugitives from the rout by Cortez. 
And there were those bubbling springs, geysers, and oddly 
tinted or ashy tracts, real but made unreal by imaginary 



attributes, to which the trapper, like the Indian, threw a sop 
by "making medicine." 

It still was a land misunderstood; a land popularly pre- 
sumed to be forever condemned, behind its barrier of the 
chimeric " Great American Desert," and of the beetling 
ranges which seemed so snowy and austere. In the words 
of Benton (1825) : "The ridge of the Rocky Mountains 
may be named without offense as presenting a convenient, 
natural, and everlasting boundary." And the Robert Green- 
how report upon Oregon and the Pacific coast, seven years 
later than this year of 1832, was to declare that this trap- 
pers' battleground from the Rockies to the Blue Moun- 
tains of Idaho was either a barren waste or else that the 
climate was " sufficient to render any attempts at cultiva- 
tion entirely fruitless." 

Hereabout were those favorite rendezvous valleys of 
the Green, the Bear, and Pierre's Hole ; here were the Grand 
Ronde and Horse Prairie, Brown's Hole, Ogden's Hole, 
and Cache Valley all well-beloved of the mountain man 
for their shelter and their bounty in time of need. Here 
were the wonders of the Salt Lake, of the Bear Springs, 
of the Soda Springs, of waters hot and cold, of salt and 
gypsum and potash. Hereabout were the beautiful Flat- 
head Lake and Pend d'Oreille on the north, lovely Utah 
Lake on the south, with many a gem of lesser note in 
between. Here flowed the varied current of the Green, the 
friendly stream encountered at the very foot of the South 
Pass, uniting with the equally varied Grand to form the 
wondrous Colorado; here rushed the fierce Snake, deeply 
cafioned in stark lava beds, to cross which, as said Jim 
Bridger, " a bird must carry along its own provisions " ; 
here rippled the Bear; here, coming down from the north 
to its union with the Snake, rolled to the sea the mighty 
Columbia; here sparkled the Henry Fork, the Godin, the 
Uintah, and a hundred other tributaries to the arterial 


system; here were deer, elk, buffalo, sheep, speckled trout, 
the friendly Indians. And sentinels facing west, looked 
over all the snowy tips of the Three Tetons the trap- 
pers' Pilot Buttes. 

Hereabout were to appear the two great highways branch- 
ing from the valley of the Green: the highway north of 
west, to Oregon; the highway south of west, to Salt Lake 
and California. Thus already had the fates spun; for in 
1831 almost simultaneously had Hall Kelly, the Boston 
schoolmaster, incorporated " The American Society for 
Encouraging the Settlement of Oregon Territory," and 
changing from New York to Ohio the Mormon church had 
begun its series of heroic moves. And to defy the diagno- 
sis by Robert Greenhow and fellow students, hereabout 
would blossom and bear the utter desolation of the Salt 
Lake Valley, and every beaver stream would course by 
flock and herd and mine and ranch and Alladin-summoned 

Robert Greenhow, the librarian, in his report to Congress 
upon Oregon declared though it was an understatement 
that until 1834 there never, at one time, were more than 
200 Americans west of the Rockies. But crossing by the 
South Pass, discovered by Etienne Prevost of the Ashley 
company in 1824, the Americans, few or many, spread far 
and wide. Ashley had made known the valleys of the 
Green or Seeds-skee-dee (Prairie-hen River), and had 
even tried to descend its canons by boat (as Major Powell 
did successfully almost half a century later), and had left 
his name therein for future explorers to read; he had 
opened the country of the Bear, north of Salt Lake, the 
country of Utah Lake and Sevier Lake, southward. With 
forty-five men and more than one hundred horses Joshua 
Pilcher had traversed from Council Bluffs west to the 
Green, north to Flathead Lake and Fort Colville in Wash- 
ington near the Canadian line, and then by the Athabaska 


and Red River of Canada back to the Missouri and the 
States. Jedediah S. Smith had been as far north as the 
present city of Spokane; he had carried beaver to the 
British and the Bible to the Flathead, and by his explora- 
tions of the country of the Snake and the Columbia, as 
transmitted to the war department, had supplemented the 
information previously supplied by the routes of Lewis and 
Clark and the Astorians; he had been as far south as 
San Diego, he had thrice crossed the Great Basin, and with 
Ewing Young had investigated California from the south 
to the extreme north. Colter, Joe Meek, Jim Bridger, and 
Robert Meldrum had exploited the Yellowstone Park. 
There were three trails across the desert of the Colorado 
by William Wolf skill in the north, Ewing Young in the 
middle, and David E. Jackson in the lower part ; and there 
were the trails by the Snake and the Columbia. 

Thus the routes to and from the coast had been opened ; 
within another year the Joseph Walker detachment of the 
Captain Bonneville expedition would open the overland trail 
from Salt Lake. A trade in horses and mules a trade 
legitimate as well as illegitimate had begun, via Santa 
Fe and the Santa Fe Trail, between the States and Califor- 
nia; Spanish Trail broken by William Wolfskill was being 
stirred by shuffling hoofs. The Southwest was sufficiently 
known; the tide of humanity was surely, although still 
in a manner blindly, setting into the Oregon then present 
and yet to be. The battle ground of the white race and the 
red was extending through Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, 
Idaho, Montana, Washington, Oregon states yet in em- 
bryo, but only waiting. 

To be sure, the topography of the West was more hazy 
than its geography. The Green River the Seedskeedee, 
Buenaventura or Spanish River confused with another 
mythical Buenaventura, was presumed to empty into the 
Pacific; and the Great Salt Lake was assigned two outlets 


on the west, also draining into the Pacific a fallacy which 
prevailed for yet ten years. The Rocky Mountains were 
stated, by competent authority of the day, to present peaks 
of 25,000 feet elevation. 30 

But although the main exploring activities were now in 
the wide Oregon country which occupied all of the North- 
west beyond the Shining Mountains, of American fort or 
fur posts there was none save, perchance, the post of 
the enterprising Antoine Robidoux, in the Uintah region 
of northeastern Utah. Major Andrew Henry's log fort 
upon the Henry Fork of the Lewis or Snake, at the western 
base of the Wind River divide, had been abandoned; and 
that ambitious structure upon the shore of Utah Lake, to 
which the gallant General Ashley, upon his last trip into the 
mountains, had hauled his six-pounder cannon had also 
been abandoned. Only the Hudson Bay Company posts, 
west of the latitude of the Blue Mountains of Idaho that 
long accepted barrier beyond which the Hudson Bay Com- 
pany was presumed to reign supreme had persisted as 
representatives of white man's enterprise. 

The fur trade, if prosperous, was waxing complicated, 
also, as cutthroat methods of an avaricious civilization 
intruded more and more. Firmly entrenched upon the 
western coast, with headquarters at Vancouver, and domi- 
nating the blackened remnants of that Astoria which twice 
had changed hands, the Hudson Bay Company, proud, 
rich, and powerful, tenaciously gathered to itself the streams 
of fur heading in north, south, and east. Doing a fur busi- 
ness in Oregon alone of $140,000 annually; with its bri- 
gades and its twenty posts as strictly disciplined as any 
military force; with its trained engages and clerks and 
bourgeois; with its immense resources and experience; its 
employees courteous as man to man, but inflexible as trader 
to trader now dining the stranger at a twenty-foot table 
lavish with viands and wines, and now refusing him one 


ounce of supplies to further him upon the onward trail 
into the fur country the Hudson Bay Company by every 
resource within its means resisted the inroads of the Amer- 
ican. When it must outbid, it outbid ; when it must under- 
sell, it undersold; when it must deceive, it deceived; when 
it must play alcohol against blanket, it played ; and when it 
must crush, it crushed. 

The whole of this Oregon country was considered, in 
point of law, debatable ground, and was jointly occupied 
(again, in point of law) by Americans and British. But 
the great company, consummate in its machinery, yielded 
not an inch in the Oregon of today, and the actual debatable 
ground was that section before specifically referred to, lying 
from the Rockies west to the Blue Mountains, the southern 
portion being technically New Mexico. 

Now, when Kit Carson entered the mountains, there had 
pushed into this western slope district another rival for the 
fur trade which the Rocky Mountain Company of Sublette, 
Bridger, Fitzpatrick, and others had hoped to inherit from 
the efforts of Ashley and Jedediah Smith. With Henry 
Vanderburgh, Lucien Fontenelle, and Andrew Drips as its 
mountain partisans, the American Fur Company, which 
under another name had failed at Astoria, now operating 
out of St. Louis a western department, had not only 
ascended the Missouri but had veered into the Northwest. 

The fall of 1831 marked its first definite invasion of the 
new territory, and fleeing the advance of the prying brigade 
under the West Pointer Vanderburgh and the trader Drips, 
the Rocky Mountain Fur Company had driven its own men 
to the upper Snake and the Salmon River country, in the 
Nez Perce fastness. 

In addition to this rivalry, and as if further to complicate 
matters, now in the spring of 1832 there were leaving 
Boston, for Oregon, as " salmon fishers," but destined to 
become castaways and beaver-hunters, a detachment of 


twenty-one tenderfoot New Englanders under young 
Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth of Cambridge, whose building of 
Fort Hall on the upper Snake was to supply the Hudson 
Bay Company with an easternmost post. And starting 
westward from Independence there was wending by horse, 
foot, and wagon, with his company of one hundred and 
ten, Irving's hero- to-be, Captain Benjamin Eulalie de 
Bonneville, of the army a fur hunter of the Ashley stamp, 
but not of the Ashley success. Already in the mountains 
were parties of free trappers one under bold Sinclair of 
Arkansas, and another, from Pennsylvania (in the number 
being the chronicler Zenas Leonard), under Messrs. Gant 
and Blackwell. 

But these detachments, while lending excitement and 
variety, were only chips in the current. Gant and Black- 
well failed, their company dispersed; Sinclair died the 
trapper's death, and his company dispersed; Bonneville 
tried hither and thither, opened a new trail to California, 
reported upon the Great Basin, built Fort Nonsense, had 
to quit; Wyeth, rebuffed by Americans and British alike, 
had to quit. The Rocky Mountain Company, the American 
Company, the Hudson Bay Company, grappled until only 
the two were left. 

Having outlined the country and the combatants, let us 
consider the methods and then the rank and file. 

In this campaign of 1832 and of the half dozen years 
succeeding, until the last regular rendezvous, at Fort Non- 
sense, in 1839 a campaign that decimated the beaver, 
demoralized the Indian, and killed the goose that laid the 
golden egg the Hudson Bay Company, despite its superb 
organization, in American trans-montane territory was at 
first under disadvantage ; for its organization was met with 
disorganization under King Alcohol. 

A few words are necessary to explain the system of the 
Hudson Bay Company. Following the splendid example 


of that British autocracy the Northwest Company of Can- 
ada, and with true British policy, its principles were high 
principles of good business. In this respect it was, and is, 
a striking contrast to improvident American methods, which, 
under the theory " get while you 're getting," devastate 
forests and exterminate fur, fin, and feather. 

The Hudson Bay Company never over-trapped, never 
over-paid, never connived at offenses in order to receive 
favors, never temporized with enmity in order to obtain 
a transient friendship, and never willingly debauched busi- 
ness with liquor. 

As for over-trapping: 

If the annual return from any well-trapped district be less in 
any year than formerly, they order a less number still to be 
taken, until the beaver and other fur-bearing animals have time 
to increase. The income of the Company is thus rendered 
uniform, and their business perpetual. 31 

As for prices: 

A regular tariff was established on the Company's goods, 
comprising all the articles used in their trade with the Indians ; 
nor was the quality of their goods ever allowed to deteriorate. 
A price was also fixed upon furs according to their market 
value, and an Indian knowing this, knew exactly what he could 
purchase. No bartering was allowed. When skins were 
offered for sale at the fort they were handed to the clerk 
through a window like a postoffice delivery-window, and their 
value in the article desired, returned through the same 

As for offenses, no Indian culprit, from murderer to 
thief, ever was permitted to go unpunished. Even when the 
company of the American, Jedediah Smith, entering upon 
the Hudson Bay ground in the spring of 1828 was assaulted 
by the Shasta Indians on the Umpqua of Oregon, from 


Fort George the Hudson Bay Company dispatched instantly 
a force to punish the Indians and recover the Americans' 
goods. Such a policy was maintained by the company as 
a measure of self-defense. 

As for temporizing with enmity, as for even suffering 
friendship to mingle with business interests the Hudson 
Bay posts would entertain the traveler, but would sup- 
ply not the trader. It bought the furs of Jedediah Smith the 
castaway, to prevent other markets from getting them; but 
when Ewing Young entered Oregon, with some hope of 
pursuing trade with the Indians, it refused to sell him a 
single article of clothing. 

As for liquor, a modicum was furnished, at stated and 
well separated intervals, to employees as reward of duty. 
But until the final fight for furs had to be met with Amer- 
ican methods, no alcohol went out in trade. And alcohol 
was not necessary. The Indians knew, as well as did the 
company, what furs should bring and what goods should 
cost, and never found their confidence abused. 

On the debit side of the ledger, the Hudson Bay Com- 
pany existed for its own profit absolutely and only. It was 
opposed to agriculture for that invited settlers upon the 
fur grounds, showed the Indian that hunting was not the 
only livelihood, and intruded upon the company's business. 
The company discouraged any competition, healthful of 
unhealthful, and was entirely a monopoly. Its course in 
obliterating rivalry was as unscrupulous as the alleged 
course of Standard Oil, and very similar. In competi- 
tion it would starve out and drive out with a single-minded- 
ness bent upon the one aim absolute mastership in the 

It occupied the beaver grounds west of the Rockies and 
north of Utah by virtue of that agreement of 1818, extended 
by the agreement of London, 1827, by which citizens 
of the United States and of Great Britain should have 


equal rights of trade and settlement in the Oregon Terri- 
tory. Its fur business was carried on through the medium 
of strong posts, of which in 1832 the most eastern in the 
lower territory was Fort Walla Walla on the Columbia 
near the mouth of the Snake, in present Washington. But 
eventually the American rendezvous summoned its traders, 
and W. A. Slocum, in his report to the government, an- 
nounced that the Hudson Bay Company especially sent to 
be present at the American rendezvous of 1836, Chief 
Trader McLeod. 

The " Nor'west " Company, as, by right of succession, 
the Hudson Bay outfit was known among the trappers gen- 
erally, was by the Americans feared, hated, combated. In 
this year 1832 the British influence exerted among the 
Indians during the War of 1812 was still fresh in the public 
mind ; and it was well understood that the fur traders were 
the men who exerted the greatest influence of all. They 
were the go-betweens. With British traders still active 
in American territory (the Hudson Bay traders west of 
the Rockies, and traders from Canada coming down upon 
the upper Missouri), both American lives and property 
were threatened. 

So we see that on February 9, 1829, the indefatigable 
defender of western interests, Senator Thomas H. Benton, 
for the Committee on Indian Affairs, makes a strong report 
to the Senate, embodying memorials and statements from 
the Assembly of Missouri, from General Ashley, from 
General William Clark (surviving leader of the Lewis and 
Clark expedition), Governor Lewis Cass of Michigan, John 
Jacob Astor, and others. It recites that because of British 
aggression, aided by the high duties imposed upon scarlet 
cloth, blankets, and so on, used in the Indian trade, and by 
the free admission of foreign furs, the fur trade of the 
United States is seriously ill; and that because of the 
presence upon American fur grounds of the British traders 


500 lives and $500,000 worth of property have been lost, 
during the past twenty years. 

He suggests, as first of the measures to be taken, that 
" the project of a joint occupancy by the British and Amer- 
icans, of the country west of the Rocky Mountains, ought 
to be abandoned; a line of demarkation amicably estab- 
lished, with as little delay as possible ; and the citizens and 
subjects of the two powers, for all the purposes of trade 
and intercourse with the Indians, confined to their respective 
sides of it." 32 

Here sounded one of those early calls for the occupancy 
of Oregon but not for settlement, only for trade. Pend- 
ing any such arrangement, General Ashley had in 1823 
taken the initiative by sending his men across the divide to 
the Green, and in 1826 had emphasized his action by haul- 
ing that six-pounder cannon over to Utah Lake. Then 
Smith, Jackson and Sublette, in 1826, had boldly pushed 
further, until the roving Smith had appeared even upon 
the Pacific coast where, with Christian meekness and 
gentlemanly spirit, he had hobnobbed with Governor 
McLoughlin himself, chief of the Hudson Bay affairs in 

But this urbane interview did not represent the Amer- 
ican attitude toward the British company, and the American 
traders and trappers considered the " Nor' westers " fair 
prey. In 1824 the religious Smith is accused of having, 
by questionable Yankee methods, gained for himself some 
packs of furs to which a Hudson Bay factor deemed his 
own company entitled ; and the factor, one Ross, could not 
but admit that the Americans were " shrewd men," and 
that Smith was " a very intelligent person." General Ash- 
ley is accused of having lifted a Hudson Bay cache, or 
else of having demoralized with liquor a Hudson Bay party, 
by which he achieved the turn in his fortunes to wealth; 
Fitzpatrick rendered an Ogden party foolish with alcohol, 


and got their furs for a song; and Captain Bonneville de- 
scended to honey and alcohol, that he might befuddle a 
" Nor' west " guest. 

We now come to the American methods of gaining furs 
for themselves; and the process never was more thor- 
oughly illustrated than when, in 1832, Kit Carson had 
entered the mountains. The Government, with true but 
mistaken democracy, recognized no one company, declined 
to parcel the field among separate companies ; such was the 
dread of a " monopoly," however wisely administered for 
the public peace. 

Instead of blaming upon British aggression the alleged 
injury to and decline of the fur trade of the West, the 
trader of the States should have removed the beam from 
his own eye. 

These traders are continually endeavoring to lessen each 
other in the eyes of the Indians, not only by abusive words, but 
by all sorts of low tricks and maneuvers. * * * The im- 
posing appearance of the army equipments of the white men 
and the novelty and convenience of their merchandise had im- 
pressed the Indians with a high idea of their power and 
importance, but the avidity with which beaver skins are sought 
after, the tricks and wrangling made use of, and the degrada- 
tions submitted to in obtaining them, have induced a belief 
that the whites cannot exist without them, and have made a 
great change in their opinion of our importance, our justice, 
and our power. 33 

Thus from Council Bluffs wrote Thomas Biddle, in 1819; 
and herein was shown the folly of the American and the 
wisdom of the Britisher. Whereas the former, by run- 
ning after the Indian, would seem to. make himself depen- 
dent upon Indian favor, the latter by his steady policy, his 
fixed prices, and the quality of his goods, made the Indian 
dependent upon him for comforts. 

The erratic, scrambling rivalry of the American traders 


among themselves continued; so that in 1833 Thomas Fitz- 
patrick, the trader and trapper of long experience, wrote to 
General Ashley, the fur-trade champion at Washington : 

If there is not some alteration made in the system of busi- 
ness in this country very soon, it will become a nuisance and a 
disgrace to the United States. With so many different com- 
panies roving about from one tribe to another, each telling 
a different tale, and slandering each other to such a degree 
as to disgust the Indians, they will evidently all become hostile 
to Americans. 34 

And this, indeed, was the situation now in the spring of 
1832, when the two American companies the Rocky 
Mountain Fur Company and the American Fur Company 
and the Hudson Bay Company were locked in a bitter 
fight, with Bonneville, Wyeth, Gant and Blackwell, and 
the other lesser fry, vainly attempting flank marches. 

Of the two principal companies, the American Fur Com- 
pany (in the West, after its first establishment there, to 
be known and referred to simply as " the Company," a title 
significant of its masterful character) had possession of 
the plains. Operated w r ith John Jacob Astor overseeing 
from New York, and Pierre Chouteau, Jr., directing from 
St. Louis, with the best organizers and traders in the fur 
business upon its list of agents, its posts were located or in 
process of location all along the Missouri clear to the Black- 
feet country near the river's sources in Montana. Many 
of these forts, like many of the highly capable agents, were 
inheritance from former companies which " the Company " 
absorbed, thus acquiring, all ready to hand, men, territory, 
and munitions. It had just installed upon the Missouri the 
first traffic steamboat, The Yellowstone, for carrying 
supplies to the posts and furs to St. Louis. Sternly business- 
like, exacting from its employees as much work as possible 
with as little risk and expenditure to itself as possible, the 


American Fur Company eventually occupied the whole fur 
field of the West. 

The Rocky Mountain Fur Company's stronghold and 
headquarters were the mountains, where at the outset it 
held the advantage in that it knew the country. It had no 
posts, it worked by means of camps and rendezvous, it was 
versatile, mobile, and lived afield at a minimum of expense. 
Of its leaders, Fitzpatrick, Milton Sublette, and Bridger had 
been in the mountains since Ashley's early endeavors of 
1823 and 1824; and the chances are that Fraeb and Gervais 
were almost as experienced. Their men had been taken 
over from the Smith, Jackson & Sublette outfit some of 
them inherited from Ashley; and the names of Fitzpatrick 
and Jim Bridger and Milton Sublette alone would have 
induced the pick of mountaineers to join the standard. Wil- 
liam Sublette had the contract to bring in the supplies 
which insured competent service. 

On the other hand, the partisans and many of the file in 
the American Fur Company, which for the first time was 
extending its operations to the Rockies and beyond, were 
strangers in a strange land. The condition was after a 
manner similar to that at the beginning of the Civil War: 
the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, like the Confederate 
forces, fought upon its own soil, and upon ground of its 
own choosing ; the American Fur Company was the invader. 
Hither, thither, trapped the Rocky Mountain squads, at first 
seeking the rich spots known only to them, later conducting 
feints and retreats, but always pursued by the American 
detachments, willing to spend to learn. For the campaign 
of education cost the American Fur Company lives and 
money; lured into the Blackfeet fastnesses, the gallant Van- 
derburgh fell, dying like a soldier, and, coming to rendez- 
vous, the supply trains of Fontenelle must witness a camp 
already supplied by the better endowed Sublette. At last, 
worn out in the four years like the armies of the South, 


the Rocky Mountain Fur Company ceased as an organiza- 
tion. The American Company became supreme in the 
mountains as upon the plains. 

The fetish of the fur trade, as it was the fetish of the 
fur hunt, was alcohol ; it was worshiped with the blindness 
of the African savage, and it fattened its priests at the 
expense of the blood and soul of its devotees. 

In the beginning, the Hudson Bay Company, as has been 
remarked, forbade the use of alcohol in trading. This was 
policy, not principle; and when, in rivalry with the Ameri- 
can traders, alcohol was demanded, the company changed 
its policy to meet the occasions. Could both nations have 
agreed not to use alcohol in the fur country, the result 
would have been most beneficial to both. The one side 
suspiciously refused so to engage; the other engaged, but 
failed to perform. 

From the time of Lieutenant Zebulon Pike, who, in 
ascending the Mississippi in the summer of 1805, distrib- 
uted presents of rum to the Sioux, liquor has been a factor 
in the Indian country of the West. Up to 1822 it was used 
with discretion, for the fur business was then a government 
enterprise, conducted from posts or factories a system 
somewhat along the lines of the British companies. But 
with the demand that the fur trade be thrown open to the 
people (and as usual it was not the people, but the few 
personages who benefited), for the next ten years liquor 
might be legally taken into the Indian country only for the 
use of the white employees en route and at the posts. How- 
ever, this was a country beyond the law. 

What a farce this regulation proved is evidenced by the 
padded lists provided by traders even as high in standing as 
the Chouteaus of St. Louis, and by the instance of William 
Sublette, who obtained a license to carry liquor for his 
" boatmen," when his destination was Pierre's Hole, over- 
land across the Rocky Mountains ! For in fur days, as in 


later days, successfully to defraud the government was held 
no crime. 

Then, in 1832, despite the protests of the fur companies, 
the government of the Republic and praise be to its pur- 
pose, if not to its execution by act of Congress, July 9, 
provided that " no ardent spirits shall be hereafter intro- 
duced, under any pretence, into the Indian Country." 
Upon the government force at Fort Leavenworth devolved 
the responsibility of confiscating the liquor which might 
be smuggled that far; but the government search would be 
limited to the boats ascending; the overland expeditions 
evaded the regulation. Not until June 30, 1834, was the 
department of Indian Affairs created, which could oversee 
or pretend to oversee the wider territory. 

Now, after the interdiction of liquor, in 1832, the bitter- 
ness of the fight for furs waxed vastly. The Hudson Bay 
Company quickly took advantage of its rivals' plight, and 
used liquor more freely than before. And this is a damn- 
ing blot upon the story of the British success in furs : that 
when opportunity was presented to eliminate liquor from 
the fur country, the English did not meet the American 
spirit halfway. Among themselves the American traders 
were at odds and ends and all about who should be 
supplied with the whiskey. Chiefly the fight waged up and 
down the Missouri, where the American Fur Company, con- 
trolling much of that territory, was in sore straits to 
compete with the British of the borders and with the small 
concerns who were not so closely watched. Accusations and 
counter accusations flew back and forth. 

But there was no dearth, in 1832, or for half a century 
thereafter, of liquor for the Indian trade upon the plains 
and in the mountains, whither it was transported at first 
in the flat kegs, on back of mule and horse, and later in 

In 1841 the caravan with which traveled Rufus Sage 


conveyed, as a portion of its trading assets, twenty- four 
barrels of alcohol, moving the truthful chronicler to protest: 

This announcement may occasion surprise to many, when 
aware that the laws of Congress prohibit, under severe penal- 
ties, the introduction of liquor among the Indians, as an article 
of traffic, subjecting the offender to a heavy fine and con- 
fiscation of effects. Trading companies, however, find ways 
and means to smuggle it through, by the wagon load, under the 
very noses of the government officers, stationed along the 
frontier to enforce the observance of the laws. 

I am irresistibly led to the conclusion that these gentry are 
wilfully negligent of their duty. * * * It seems almost 
impossible that a blind man, retaining the senses of smell, 
taste and hearing could remain ignorant of a thing so palpably 
plain. The alcohol is put into wagons, at Westport or Inde- 
pendence, in open day light, and taken into the territory in 
open day light, where it remains a week or more awaiting the 
arrival of its owners. * * * 

These gentlemen cannot plead ignorance as an excuse. They 
well know that alcohol is one of the principal articles in the 
Indian trade this fact is notorious no one pretends to 
deny it ; not even the traders themselves. * * * 35 

Smallpox and alcohol were the gifts of the white man 
to the red; and the latter gift was the worse, for while it 
scorched the heart of the receiver it withered also the soul 
of the donor. If the Indian would stop at no sacrifice to 
obtain his dram, the white would stay at no meanness to 
supply it. Consequently, by the eagerness on both sides 
arose those well known practices : the gradual dilution of 
the keg until the drunken Indian was trading for only 
water; the false measuring, by inserting thumb or finger 
into the gill, or covering the bottom of the tin cup with a 
layer of paraffin; the adulteration by tobacco and pepper, 
that the dose might poison sooner; all those wretched 
deceits by which the weak second party should be cheated 
the more roundly. Truly, the beaver and the buffalo had 
their revenge. 


But what was the coin for which the white trader stooped 
so far? 

Let the reader sit down and figure up the profits on a forty- 
gallon keg of alcohol, and he will be thunder-struck, or rather 
whiskey-struck. When disposed of, four gallons of water are 
added to each gallon of alcohol. In two hundred gallons there 
are sixteen hundred pints, for each of which the trader gets a 
buffalo robe worth five dollars. The Indian women toil many 
long weeks to dress these sixteen hundred robes. The white 
trader gets them all for worse than nothing, for the poor 
Indian mother hides herself and her children in the forests 
until the effect of the poison passes away from husbands, 
fathers, and brothers, who love them when they have no 
whiskey, and abuse and kill them when they have. Six 
thousand dollars for sixty gallons of alcohol. Is it any wonder 
that, with such profits in prospect, men get rich who are 
engaged in the fur trade ? 36 

Thus writes Jim Beckwourth, Crow chief and likewise 
Indian trader, after having, himself, turned six kegs of the 
stuff into eleven hundred robes and eighteen horses, aggre- 
gating the six thousand dollars above mentioned, and bring- 
ing on the fit of moralizing, which was cheap. Beaver and 
other furs were gained as improvidently. The Indian was 
not only befuddled, he was robbed. When he protested, he 
was cajoled, laughed at behind his back, and befuddled 

Listen to the Red Man of the West whose dignity was 
once portrayed by a Catlin, whose mental and moral status 
was once extolled by an Irving: 

Big man, me. Chief Black Warrior. Me, American 
soldier ! Love Americans, heap. Big man, me ! Love whiskey, 
heap. White man good. Whiskey good. Love whiskey, me 
drink heap whiskey. No give me whiskey drink ? Me, 
Chief. Me, American. Me, Black Warrior. Heap big man, 
me! Love Americans. Take him hand, shake. White man 
good. Whiskey good. Me love whiskey ! Love him heap ! No 
give Black Warrior Whiskey? No? One leetle drink? 


Whiskey good. Me love him. Make Black Warrior strong. 
Big man, me Chief. American soldier. We love American. 
Shake him hand. Fight him, bad Indian, no love white man. 
Kill him. White man good. Me love white man. Whiskey 
good. Me love whiskey. No give Black Warrior whiskey 
one leetle drink ? Me, Chief. Big man, me. Etc. 37 

Contrast this with the fancied speech of an Uncas, or 
with the real speech of a Keokuk, a chief Joseph, a Sitting 
Bull. Truly the beaver and the buffalo did have their 
revenge, not only in blood of many a skirmish and horrid 
raid, but in the very essence of destruction the destruc- 
tion of the spirit. 


AS THE curtain lifts for this act ushering upon the stage 
of the beaver West the year 1832 and the events 
which follow it, let us briefly glance at the more important 
actors. The popular General William Henry Ashley had 
already been elected to Congress. " The most influential 
man in Missouri, .next to Senator Benton," married three, 
perhaps four times, father of the American beaver trade in 
the mountains (but with no other child), militia man, trader, 
trapper and fur merchant, financier and politician, out of 
defeats achieving his success after he was fifty, he died at 
sixty (in 1838) to lie in a neglected grave upon a Missouri 
farm, beside the waters of the river trail which he had so oft 

As for Major Andrew Henry, the Ashley partner, already 

He is gone on the mountain, 
He is lost to the forest. 

The first American to establish foothold between the Rock- 
ies and the coast, he had submitted to his narrow bed 
January 10, 1832 a man of " honesty, intelligence and 
enterprise," tall and slender, with dark hair and light eyes, 
fond of the violin. His name survives in descendants, and in 
the lake and river in the vicinity of his old fort of 1810. 

Ewing Young is trapping through the Gila country with 
Moses Carson in his company. He will arrive in California 
again in April, and will take up residence of two years at 
Monterey, thence to sail (1834) with Hall Kelly, the 
Oregon colonizer. His Mexican wife and the boy child in 




(Copy of old daguerreotype) 



(Courtesy of the Missouri Historical 



(Photograph by Joseph Bucktcl. 
From Victor's River of the West) 






Taos never will see him again, nor does he mention them 
in his new home. 

David E. Jackson (" Davy " to his friends) of " Jackson 
Hole," on a mule-trading excursion to San Diego, via Santa 
Rita and Tucson, is taking perhaps the first negro, a slave, 
into California. Coming back again to the States, he dies a 
poor man in St. Louis. 

Joshua Pilcher, Virginian, hatter, banker of St. Louis, 
fur trader of long experience dating back to 1819, hero of the 
" grand tour " swinging around the circle, in 1827, is Ameri- 
can Fur agent at Council Bluffs. In six years he will suc- 
ceed the famous and jovial General William Clark in the 
Indian affairs superintendency at St. Louis; and in June, 

1847, wml die, a g e d on ly 57- 

Etienne Provost (Prevost), first white user of the South 
Pass, accredited with being the first white visitor to the 
Salt Lake, is still alive, but his end of worldly wanderings 
is near. 

Jedediah S. Smith is only a memory. 38 For six months 
his bones have been lying under Southwest soil. Connecti- 
cut born, a man of high ideals and of steadfast faith in the 
Christian religion, a combination of the wilderness hunter 
and the missionary, he can ill be spared from an area 
wherein characters like this are sorely needed. His ambition 
was to present the world with an atlas and history of the 
western country ; but it was never achieved. 

Let us call the roll of those, the rank and file, still active 
in the field: 

William Sublette : " Height six feet two inches ; fore- 
head straight and open ; eyes blue, light ; nose Roman ; 
mouth and chin common; hair light or sandy; complexion 
fair; face long and expressive; scar on left side of chin;'" 
to the Indians, " Cut Face," " Fate," and " Left Hand." 
Sublette was a Kentuckian, born in 1799, one of five broth- 
ers, all of the early trans-Missouri West; a bold, energetic 


trader, a determined and skillful Indian fighter; known to 
his associate mountain men as " Billy." He retired wealthy 
from the mountains in 1842, aspired vainly to Congress 
from Missouri, would have been satisfied with the superin- 
tendency of Indian Affairs at St. Louis, but died young, in 
1845, at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, while on his way to Wash- 
ington City. 

Robert Campbell : An Irishman of County Tyrone, who, 
in 1825, aged 21, as an Ashley man, sought the mountains 
for his health, and found there not only health, but wealth. 
Partner and stanch friend of William Sublette in trading 
enterprises, later one of St. Louis' most prominent finan- 
ciers and business heads; banker and owner of the old 
Southern Hotel; Indian commissioner in 1851 and 1869, 
and outfitter of government expeditions, he was a man of 
prized counsel and fine integrity. Outliving most of his 
contemporary mountain men, he died in October, 1879, 
aged 75. 

Milton Sublette : Brother, .and associate in the moun- 
tains, of William Sublette, the partner in the Rocky Moun- 
tain Fur Company. Second to his brother in prominence, 39 
in December, 1836, w 7 hile still a young man, he died at old 
Fort William, built by his brother and Robert Campbell 
and named for his brother, owned by himself in partnership 
with Fitzpatrick and Jim Bridger, and now in 1836 already 
being called Fort Laramie. 

Baptiste Gervais: Canadian Frenchman; a partner in 
the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, and a mountaineer 
without history because he lacked a biographer. After he 
sold out his interest in the company, 1834, for " twenty 
head of horse beast, thirty beaver traps and five hundred 
dollars' worth of merchandise," he disappears. 

Henry Fraeb : German ; partner in the Rocky Mountain 
Fur Company. He and Gervais usually hunted together in 
the mountain region of northwestern Colorado. When in 


1834 he sold out his partnership for " forty head of horse 
beast, forty traps, eight guns and one thousand dollars' 
worth of merchandise," he continued to hunt for beaver in 
Colorado. As " Frapp " he lived, and as " Frapp " and 
" Trapp " he died, being shot while " forted " with his thirty 
trappers against an attack by three hundred Cheyennes and 
Sioux, at the confluence of Battle Creek and the Little 
Snake, in northern Colorado near the Wyoming line, August 
21 and 22, 1841. He was buried on the spot with $80 in 
his pockets; and his grave and the grave of three compan- 
ions mark the site of the last known " big " trapper and 
Indian battle in the West. 

Thomas Fitzpatrick: "Bad Hand," "Broken Hand," 
" White Head," trader, partisan and mountain man, fully 
the equal of William Sublette, and contemporary with Sub- 
lette in his beginnings under General Ashley in 1823, but 
long outliving him; first a partner in the Rocky Mountain 
Fur Company, and afterward a professional guide for over- 
land parties. He is mentioned with praise by the missionary 
Elijah White as his guide'on the way to Oregon in 1842; 
praised by Fremont as an efficient guide upon his expedi- 
tions across to California, in 1843 and in 1845; by Colonel 
Philip St. George Cooke as his guide in the dragoon excur- 
sion along the Oregon Trail in 1845; by Lieutenant J. W. 
Abert, as his guide in the government expedition exploring 
the country from Bent's Fort on the Arkansas to St. Louis ; 
by Lieutenant Johnston and others as guide with the Kearny 
overland column through the Colorado Desert, 1846, thence 
turning back with Kit Carson's dispatches to Washington. 
Called by the Indians " Bad Hand " and " Broken Hand," 
because of partial crippling through accidental discharge of 
a rifle, he was named " White Head," later, because of a 
terrific chase (1832) by Indians, which turned his hair gray. 
Rather thickset, still young looking when employed first by 
Fremont, his white hair contrasted strangely with his ruddy 


complexion. In the fall of 1846 Fitzpatrick was appointed 
Indian Agent upon the upper Platte and the Arkansas, 
over Sioux, Cheyennes, Arapahos and " other wandering 
tribes," with post at Bent's Fort, served thus with notable 
efficiency, reporting that he " looks out for the old moun- 
tain men traders who may not have procured licenses." 
After the demolition of Bent's Fort, in 1852, he removed 
his agent's headquarters to the Big Timbers, the site of the 
new Bent's Fort. He was " greatly esteemed by the Indians, 
and among white men is reputed to have been the best agent 
these tribes ever had." Married a half-breed Arapaho girl, 
daughter of John Poisal, an interpreter known among the 
Indians as " Old Red Eyes," on account of an inflammation. 
He died in 1855, while still agent. A man evidently of 
much energy and judgment, of activities as wide and as 
useful as those of Carson or Bridger, yet by the singular 
eccentricity of fate he was to pass away unnoted and with 
his grave unmarked. 

James Bridger: "Old Gabe," "Daniel Boone of the 
Mountains," the " Old Man of the Mountains," " Casapy " 
or " Blanket Chief," born in Virginia in 1804, died blind 
and decrepit on his farm at Santa Fe, Missouri, not far 
from Kansas City, in 1881, one of the very few mountain 
men who long survived the beaver days and lived to a ripe 
age. At nineteen Bridger was an Ashley man; at twenty- 
two (1826) accredited discoverer (on a wager that he 
would descend Bear River to its mouth) of the Salt Lake; 
first exploiter of the wonders in the Yellowstone National 
Park 1 and not believed; partner in the Rocky Mountain 
Fur Company; partner next in the short-lived fur firm of 
Sublette (Milton), Campbell & Bridger; founder of Fort 
Bridger, the first trading post for emigrants on the Oregon 
Trail, erected in 1843 on Black's Fork of the Green River, 
southwestern Wyoming, " west of the mountains." A 
blacksmith originally, then beaver trapper, trader, and guide ; 


guide in 1854-55 for Sir George Gore, the Irish sportsman 
in the Rockies; for the General Albert Sidney Johnston 
" Utah column " in the Mormon War of 1857-58; for vari- 
ous army detachments on the plains in the Civil War, and 
consulted by General Sheridan as late as 1868; for Captain 
Reynolds of the army in the attempted exploration of Yel- 
lowstone Park in 1869; adviser to the survey for the Union 
Pacific Railroad, 1869, and donator thereto of the cut-off 
Bridger's Pass. He was a man of spare but powerful Vir- 
ginian type, gray-eyed, brown-haired, shaven and wrinkled 
and tanned, with quizzical cast of countenance. A moun- 
tain man ranking with Carson and Fitzpatrick, having, 
according to Father DeSmet, " two quivers full of arrows 
shot into his body," possessing the qualities of a natural 
topographer and a born story-teller, he was in his declining 
years a pathetic figure. The last of the Ashley type of beaver 
hunters, he died poor, feeling that he had been defrauded 
by a government which he had well served. But over his 
body in the Mount Washington cemetery of Kansas City 
is reared a noble granite monument token that his deeds 
and services are not and never will be forgotten. 

William Henry Vanderburgh was an American Fur Com- 
pany man and partisan in the mountain hunts whereby the 
Rocky Mountain Fur Company was steadily harrassed. 
An Indianan, a West Pointer (entering 1817), by 1823 a 
fur trader in the Missouri Fur Company, and in that year 
a captain under Colonel Leavenworth in the attack upon 
the Arikara Indians, he was ambushed by the Blackfeet, in 
October, 1832, while pressing recklessly along a side stream 
of the Jefferson River in the Three Forks country of south- 
western Montana. His horse was disabled, and abandoned 
by his helplessly stampeded and shattered men, his last 
words, as bravely he faced the enemy and shot the foremost 
were : " Boys, do n't run." Thus fell William Henry Van- 
derburgh, under thirty years of age. 


Andrew S. Drips was partisan and agent of the Ameri- 
can Fur Company, in the mountain campaigns and on the 
upper Missouri. A Pennsylvanian, born in 1789, he died in 
Kansas City, 1860. He entered the fur trade as early as 
1820 with the title of "major" that honorary title 
applied by government reports to Jim Bridger, Fitzpatrick, 
and other traders and scouts. In 1842 he was appointed 
agent for the tribes of the upper Missouri and stationed at 
Fort Pierre, at the mouth of the Teton River in southeast- 
ern North Dakota. He was the first Indian Agent to fight, 
w T ith genuine zeal, the introduction of liquor into the Indian 

Lucien Fontenelle: The third in the trio of American 
Fur Company partisans in the mountain rivalry. A New 
Orleans Frenchman, of aristocratic blood, a youth born to 
romance, orphaned by a Louisiana hurricane, made a run- 
away by a too-strict aunt, exchanging a bank clerkship for 
the Missouri River frontier, returning to New Orleans, 
after twenty years, to be identified by and welcomed by 
an old nurse, but to be repudiated by a sister. Again he 
became a trader, associated with Andrew Drips at Bellevue, 
and later led brigades into the Rockies. He was a swart, 
foreign-appearing man, of a saturnine temperament, which 
finally brought him to suicide, early in 1836, at that Fort 
William on the North Platte, where but a few weeks pre- 
ceding his competitor, Milton Sublette, had died. His chil- 
dren by an Omaha Indian wife were prominent figures in 
the early history of Nebraska. 

Captain Benjamin Louis Eulalie de Bonneville: French 
born, West Point educated; died June 12, 1878, at Fort 
Smith, Arkansas. He was " of middle size, well made and 
well set," his countenance " frank, open and engaging," with 
a French cast. He had a " pleasant black eye," a high fore- 
head and a bald crown. In the spring of 1832, on leave 
from the army, he conducted an exploring and fur hunting 


brigade across South Pass, and along the Salt Lake and 
Snake and Green Rivers, but was rebuffed by British and 
American companies, alike. He succeeded in calling more 
attention to the Great Basin (today bearing his name), and 
accidentally opening communication with California by the 
Walker route, sprinkled, as advanced the Star of Empire, 
with the blood of wretched Diggers. 

Captain Gant : An independent trader, of whom we first 
hear when, in the spring of 1831, he took a party of seventy 
trappers, many of them greenhorns from Pennsylvania, out 
of St. Louis across Nebraska and up the Platte to the Lara- 
mie Plains. A man well initiated into his western career 
by bad fortune, he seems to have placed himself in history 
as the first trader to cultivate a stable outpost among the 
Arapahos a people jealous, in their plains ranging along 
the foothills between the Arkansas and the Platte, of white 
invasion. He and his partner, Captain Blackwell, had a 
post upon the upper Arkansas in the early thirties ; and the 
ruins of at least one of their posts, about six miles below 
the present city of Pueblo, were visible for some years prior 
to the Mexican War. When Colonel Henry Dodge's First 
Dragoons in the summer of 1835 swung out from Fort 
Gibson, on a tour of the Indian country, up the Platte to 
the mountains and south to return by the Arkansas, " Cap- 
tain Gant, Indian trader," was the guide. Of his partner, 
Captain Blackwell, nothing is known. 

Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth: General trader, fur hunter, 
first enthusiast to put the Oregon question to practical test. 
Cambridge born and educated in Massachusetts. In 1832, 
after a preliminary " hardening " by two weeks' camping 
upon an island in the home river, out of Boston he headed, 
with his twenty amateur crusaders, to embark in " business " 
in Oregon ! His men were daunted by unexpected hardships 
and sarcastic over his wagon-boat, dubbed by Harvard stu- 
dents the Nat-Wyethium. Succored by Sublette, he was 


received by the mountains with the fierce battle of Pierre's 
Hole. After that his trail was one of constant disappoint- 
ment and discouragement, and with the title of captain he 
ultimately returned to New England and an ice business. 

Joseph L. Meek: Trapper, first Oregon sheriff, envoy 
from Oregon " to the Court of Washington." Born in Vir- 
ginia in 1810, almost at the time of the birth of Kit Carson 
in Kentucky, he entered the mountains as a runaway in 
1828, with William Sublette. A rogue, a wit, a harum- 
scarum, now here, now there, now prosperous, now poor, 
the plantation his school and the mountains his college, his 
adventures upon the beaver trail resulted in one of the best 
histories of the opening of the Northwest. 40 

William Williams : " Old Bill " Williams, lone trapper, 
ex-preacher, eccentric. A tall, stooped man of Missouri 
fever-and-ague type, his thin, leathery face, his nut-cracker 
jaws, his Punch chin and nose, his small, sharp, twinkling, 
restless gray eyes, his querulous voice, slovenly habits, elk- 
hide suit, black with camp-fire smoke and slick with grease, 
his piebald, hump-nosed Indian pony, were familiar to trap- 
pers, traders, and Indians from the Three Forks to the Gila, 
from the States to California. Aged, infirm, half blind from 
summer desert and winter hills, in conducting Fremont's 
fourth expedition around the head of the San Luis Park 
of Colorado, in the fall of 1848, he failed. With this, an 
old stamping ground, he seemed utterly unfamiliar. After 
the rescue of the party, true to his solitary nature and to 
escape ignominy, he fled from the company of his fellows, 
and amidst the depth of winter he plunged as of yore back 
into the snow-bound peaks. In the spring of 1849 his body 
was found, a bullet wound in its breast, sitting against a 
tree as if he had been stricken instantly, in a most secret 
recess of his favorite haunt of Middle Park, Colorado. A 
medicine man, sacred among the Utes, his friends, he had 
been convicted by them of betraying a camp to the hostile 


Arapahos and a council had decided that he must die. 
Thus they had executed him, as, unconscious of danger, he 
sat in camp; and as token they had exchanged rifles with 
him. He is remembered today as perhaps the most noto- 
rious of all the mountain men, and his monuments are the 
Williams Fork of the Grand River in Colorado Middle 
Park (his burial place), and the Bill Williams Peak and 
the station of Williams, Arizona. 41 

Thomas L. Smith : " Peg-leg " Smith, assumed but erro- 
neously to be the brother of Jedediah S. Smith ; among the 
Mexicans "El Cojo Smit " (the Lame Smith); a "stout 
built man with black eyes and gray hair " ; a " hard drinker, 
and, when under the influence of liquor, very liable to get 
into a fight " ; possessor of a most serviceable wooden leg 
(its predecessor having been amputated in the brush after 
a scrimmage with the Blackfeet), which, unstrapped, aided 
in cleaning out many a barroom and frontier " grocery 
store." His mountain-man trapper service dated from 
before 1826; and when he died he was almost the last rep- 
resentative of the rough-and-ready, boisterous frontiersmen. 

Peter Skene Ogden: Hudson Bay head trader; son of 
a chief justice of Montreal; but no match for the Ameri- 
can traders in a bargain. " Short, dark and exceedingly 
tough, with an inexhaustible fund of humor " ; "a fellow 
of infinite jest," perhaps o 'er good-natured for business, but 
a dweller in the wilds who traveled his trail with a smile 
and amidst friends. He died in Oregon, his adopted land, 
in 1854. 

Captain Joseph Reddiford Walker : Tennessean and Mis- 
sourian, dark and bearded, six feet tall, weight, two hundred 
pounds, thorough frontiersman, mild but resolute, Santa Fe 
trapper, Spanish captive, Indian fighter, Missouri sheriff, 
Southwest trader, captain under Bonneville into the moun- 
tains, breaker of the trail from Salt Lake west across the 
Great Basin to Monterey, desert guide for emigrant parties, 


California rancher and stock raiser, first of the Arizona 
prospectors who opened the Prescott region " one of the 
bravest and most skillful of mountain men," especially 
familiar with the desert of the Southwest. He died, famous 
and respected, on a ranch in Contra Costa County, Califor- 
nia, 1876, at the age of 78, his only request being that 
upon his stone be ascribed to him the discovery of Yosemite 

Michel Sylvestre Cerre: Fur trader and captain under 
Bonneville, St. Louis Frenchman, born April, 1803, and 
grandson of a pioneer fur hunter of the Mississippi Valley ; 
in the American Fur Company, after the Bonneville expedi- 
tion; 1848, representative in the Missouri Assembly; 1849, 
clerk of St. Louis District Court; 1858, sheriff of St. Louis 
County; died from pneumonia January 5, 1860. The name 
Cerre still survives, on an equality with the proud name of 

Markhead : Christian name unknown ; " cele- 
brated for his courage and reckless daring," in years as in 
deeds Kit Carson's contemporary, he was shot in the back 
by Mexican captors while on the Taos Trail during the 
Mexican Pueblo insurrection of the winter i846-i847. 42 

Robert Newell : " Doc " Newell, trapper, Ohioan recruit 
of 1829 with William Sublette; Meek's comrade, fellow 
rancher and influential fellow citizen in Oregon, Indian 
agent and speaker in the Oregon Assembly. 

John Hawkins : :< Jake Hawkens," trapper, later a 
rancher and trader, in 1847, at the pueblo on the Arkansas 
the settlement where now has arisen Pueblo, Colorado. 

Richard Owens : " Dick " Owens, Carson's close com- 
rade and partner in many mountain doings; his partner in 
ranching it in New Mexico after trapper days ; his compan- 
ion upon the third Fremont expedition, and a captain in 
California service during the events which followed the 
Bear Flag. A man " cool, brave and of good judgment." 


Jim Beckwourth : Of French-negro blood, trapper with 
the first Ashley expedition of 1822, and of long, varied serv- 
ice thereafter; Crow chief; alleged army scout in Florida; 
trader; overlander to California, immigrant trader there 
and discoverer of Beckwourth's Pass in the Sierras, where, 
ascending Feather River, today a railroad crosses; a 
romanticist, whose dictated volume of his life exceeds the 
best endeavors of a Ned Buntline. In his later years a 
Denverite ; and at the end again a Crow, dying by poisoned 
soup in a Crow lodge of the North Platte country, Wyo- 
ming, 1867, aged seventy. Thus his Crow wife retained his 

Antoine Robidoux : 43 First fur trader out of old Taos, 
whose post in southwestern Colorado was the pioneer Amer- 
ican trading post beyond the Continental Divide of the Rock- 
ies; later with a post established at the forks of the 
Uintah River in northeastern Utah Fort Uintah, cap- 
tured and destroyed in 1844 by the Utes. One of New 
Mexico's earliest gold miners setting the fashion by 
" sinking eight thousand dollars." Interpreter and guide 
with the Kearny overland column of 1846 to California, 
where his brother, Louis Robidoux, who had preceded him 
by two years, was alcalde and juez de paz at San Bernar- 
dino; grievously wounded by a lance thrust at the battle 
of San Pasqual; granted a pension by Congress May 23, 
1856; died at St. Joseph, Missouri (former trading post of 
his second brother, Joseph), in 1860, aged 66. A "thin 
man," of the French-Canadian type, active member of a 
family distinguished along the Missouri, in the Southwest 
and in California. His pass across the rampart Sangre de 
Cristo range, Colorado, for the inner country, today Mosca 
Pass, was long a noted wagon trail. 

Captain Sir William Drummond Stuart : " Sporting 
Englishman " with the " two-shoot " gun ; seventh Baron of 
Grandtully ; lover of the wild West, and therein beloved ; hail 


comrade with the mountain men, a hunter and a fighter, a 
thorough Britisher on the big game trail who traveled with 
courage and with creature comforts which alike astonished 
camp and rendezvous. 

J. M. Stanley : Artist, whose " The Trapper's Last 
Shot " is among the very few canvases and perhaps is the 
only one photographic of those numberless events deserving 
of a Remington, but with, alas, no Remington there; the 
first artist to attempt this stirring field, and later deline- 
ator of the Governor Isaac I. Stevens exploration, and con- 
temporary army explorations, 1853-54-55, for a railroad 
route to the Pacific. 44 


WE FIND Kit Carson, in the summer of 1832, as a free 
trapper back in Taos with his mountain furs. Here 
he is out of the strife which is embittering the solitudes, 
and by sale of his beaver he has a competency which would 
last a youth of his sober instincts some time. But at twenty- 
two, in the far West of that day, what youth would plan a 
siesta of long duration ? There enters upon the scene " Cap- 
tain Lee," said to be a minor partner in the active trading 
firm of Bent, St. Vrain & Co., who recently had established 
the post of Fort William, or Bent's Fort, northeast of Taos 
on the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado, and of 
whom more will be related presently. 

Captain Lee, like Captain Gant and more like Captain 
Blackwell, seems fated to go down the aisles of history with- 
out distinction of name. However, with Captain Lee (pre- 
viously of the United States Army), in October of 1832, 
Kit Carson takes a mule pack train of trading supplies from 
Taos into the Uintah country of northeastern Utah. 

The route chosen by Captain Lee and young Carson was 
that old Spanish Trail, retraced two years previously by 
William Wolf skill, and since then by various horse and 
mule expeditions, lawful and unlawful, between New Mex- 
ico and Alta California, made well defined. 

Not a pleasant trail was this, in its beginnings, through 
the perilous country of the Apaches a country heavily 
timbered in the mountains, but for the most part whitish, 
gravelly mesas or table-lands, watercourses now dry, sand 
and cactus, sage and pifion and scrub oak, where lived the 



coyote and the jack rabbit, the rattlesnake, tarantula and 
buzzard: yet a country requiring only the irrigating ditch 
to make it fertile. 

In southwestern Colorado the timber became more com- 
mon, with chaparral or brushy growth and sage covering the 
mesas, and bare volcanic ridges rising to the north. Ancient 
stone ruins of forgotten people were passed in the walls 
of deep, bare canons, or crowning gravelly hills. At the 
Dolores the party left the Wolf skill trace and headed more 
into the north for the Uintah country of northeastern Utah. 
They may not have known that they were following any but 
an Indian trail, but this was the course of the original Span- 
ish Trail, as pioneered by good Father Escalante himself. 

The country would grow more rugged, filled with spires 
and peaks, their bases heavily clad with pines and spruces, 
their crests gaily tinted and specked with patches of snow. 
Indeed, upon the crests and the passes snow already was 
falling. It was now Ute country, however, and the Utes 
were friendly to the trader. 

From the White River of northwestern Colorado the Lee- 
Carson party followed down to the Green, and from the 
Green a short cut was made northwest to a point where, 
" at the forks of the Uintah," and " on the right bank, in 
latitude 40, 27', 45" north, longitude 109, 56', 42" west " 
was to be located Robidoux Fort, or Fort Uintah, at this 
time but a rude collection of lodges. Here was established 
experimentally the veteran Antoine Robidoux, from Taos, 
and perchance his brother Louis, future juez de paz of San 
Bernardino. The situation was to prove satisfactory, until, 
in a dozen years, or about 1844, in an attack by the Indians 
during the absence of the proprietor, the post, of substantial 
build, was destroyed. 

In this fall of 1832 the place was the headquarters of 
some twenty men, trappers and traders, their squaws and 
their families. 


It would appear scarcely reasonable to presume that Lee 
and Carson had counted upon this Robidoux camp as their 
destination and market, for the veteran Antoine would con- 
trol the territory. However, as winter was setting in, the 
two companies made winter camp together, further down, 
at the mouth of the Uintah. Skin lodges were erected, and 
fuel and meat had to be stored. 

In the Robidoux employ was an Indian from California. 
One night during the winter he disappeared, and with him 
disappeared six horses, valued at $600; for although horses, 
in trapper days, were plentiful, yet a good horse was some- 
thing that could not always be easily replaced. The lowest 
cash value of a good one was $60. The horse was a com- 
mon commodity, it was a necessity also, and the pick of 
necessities is apt to be ranked in value with a luxury. Car- 
son's reputation for skill and reliability was of course 
known to Robidoux, and he was asked to undertake the 
pursuit of the thief. Carson probably was nothing loth. 

He was warned that the California Indian was very 
shrewd, and was one of the best rifle shots at the fort. At 
a Ute village, near by, he picked up a Ute brave, for trailer, 
and hard and fast, over the winter landscape, they followed 
the trail of the Calif ornian and his stolen horses. 

Down the Green River it sped away, through a grim, bare 
mesa region fringed with rimrock and cut deep by arroyos. 
Evidently the Indian fugitive was aiming for California, 
his home. Then, when by two days of riding the pursuit 
had covered one hundred miles, the Ute's horse was taken 
sick and could be used no more. 

But the trail was growing warm; the Indian with his 
six driven horses could not travel as fast as single riders; 
he could be only a short distance ahead, and Kit Carson 
continued alone. 

After he had proceeded thirty miles more, he sighted 
ahead of him the thief and the stolen stock. The Indian 


well knew that he was being pursued, and he had seen Kit 
Carson as quickly as Kit Carson had seen him. Fast and 
faster they rode, the Indian to reach cover, just before him, 
where he might make a stand, Kit Carson to catch him ere 
he did so. 

Kit Carson's horse was the swifter, and presently only a 
hundred and fifty yards separated pursuer and pursued. 
Both men had down their rifles but the Calif ornian did 
not appreciate who was after him. He waited a moment 
too long, for it was his purpose to shoot as he reached 
cover, and there, under shelter, to reload in readiness to 
shoot again, if his first bullet had missed. 

Just at the edge of the cover, as he whirled and leveled 
his rifle, from the back of the galloping horse behind 
cracked the rifle of Carson. The Indian's gun exploded, but 
without aim, for he pitched to the ground and instantly 
died. Kit Carson had shot first. In due time Carson reached 
the Uintah camp with the stolen horses. 

As the winter wore away, there arrived at the camp a 
small party of men from the upper country to the north, 
who reported, among other things, that Fitzpatrick and 
Bridger of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company had wintered 
in the Snake River Valley and were preparing for the 
spring hunt. 

Evidently Robidoux had not bought many of the Lee 
supplies; and it seemed to the captain and to Kit Carson 
that they should start onward, to catch the Fitzpatrick- 
Bridger camp before it broke up. Accordingly they packed, 
and leaving the isolated camp of Robidoux, headed into 
the north. 

It was a disagreeable journey of fifteen days, amidst the 
snowy, chill weather of late winter and early spring, through 
a country very rough, but a region familiar to Carson, 
who had been in this vicinity before; and by the end of 
the fortnight he and the captain, emerging at the juncture 


of the Portneuf and the Snake, in southeastern Idaho, found 
there encamped the doughty, winter-bound main force of 
the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, under Messrs. Fitzpat- 
rick, Bridger, and Milton Sublette. 

Carson, and probably Captain Lee (if associated with 
Bent's Fort) therefore met old acquaintances, and around 
the lodge fires the news of the mountain world would be 
rehearsed. They would hear how the winter here (as like 
enough down on the Uintah) was hard, " with skeins of 
frost two feet long hanging from the roofs, inside " ; they 
would learn that William Sinclair, the free trapper from the 
Arkansas party, had been killed, that William Sublette had 
been wounded, both in a big affray at Pierre's Hole; that 
Vanderburgh of the American Company had been " wiped 
out " by the Blackfeet in the Three Forks country; and that 
Bridger had been shot in the back with two arrows one 
point being there yet. 

As Carson's biography states that the Rocky Mountain 
Company took over the trading supplies brought in by the 
twain, paying therefor in beaver, 45 it is probable that 
Captain Lee returned with the pack train to Taos or Bent's 
Fort. He then drops from view. Carson stays with the 
company for a short time, but long enough to join in a fight. 
It may be said of Kit Carson that trouble never dodged 

Ere the camp had broken up for the spring hunt the 
early Blackfeet, more restless and more vengeful since 
that affair of last summer in Pierre's Hole, rushed the 
horseherd and ran off most of the saddle stock, including 
Jim Bridger's favorite Comanche mount, Grohean. After 
a sharp pursuit through the snow by thirty of the trappers, 
among them Carson (who here receives his first mention 
in trapper chronicle of the day) the Indians were over- 
taken and a parley resulted. The Blackfeet claimed 
that they thought they were robbing their enemies the 


Snakes, and not their " friends " the Americans. However, 
this was but a ruse ; and after the savages, in lordly manner, 
had brought on five of the poorest horses and offered them 
as full settlement, the council broke up in a general and 
mutual rush for weapons. The fight was from behind 
trees and rocks. Trapper Markhead had trouble with the 
lock of his gun and by quickly changing aim from his 
own adversary to Markhead's, Carson saved his compan- 
ion's life but received in the left shoulder the bullet which 
he might otherwise have avoided. 

With shoulder shattered he lay upon the ground until 
the trappers, badly outnumbered and almost outfought, 
slowly withdrew, and night put an end to the battle. The 
night was bitterly cold, but this checked the bleeding of 
Carson's wound the only severe wound, so far as re- 
corded, which he ever received at hostile hands. 

However, the cold caused much suffering to the trappers, 
who were in light marching order, and they decided that 
they were not prepared to pursue the Blackfeet further. So 
they returned to camp, without the horses; and a supple- 
mental chase by Bridger himself, heading a party, resulted 
in nothing more. 

This spring of 1833 continued fitful and laggard, cold 
and wet, with much wind and snow. When camp finally 
broke, for the usual exodus into the hills, Carson again 
struck out for himself, his reason being 

that there were too many congregated together either to accom- 
plish much or to make the general result profitable in the 
distribution. He accordingly arranged an enterprise upon his 
own account, and, from his well-established reputation, found 
more men than he wanted to join him. From those who 
applied he selected but three. 46 

This argument, whether sound or not, as assigned to 
Carson, shows him in the light of a shrewd thinker and inde- 


pendent actor. He preferred to make his own trails. And 
following his biography, we find him this spring trapping, 
with his little squad, on the Laramie Plains. Before the 
summer rendezvous he has another of his celebrated adven- 

One late afternoon, while distant from camp, after meat, 
he shot an elk, and instantly was charged by two grizzly 
bears. They gave him no time for reloading his rifle. He 
ran for the nearest tree, and hoisted himself by a limb 
just as the bears rushed under so close as to brush his dan- 
gling legs. 

The tree was a young spruce or fir, and low-branching; 
and now we may understand that Carson had been foolish 
enough to leave camp without his pistol ; for here he must 
hastily slash off a bough and use it as a club. A bear, 
when erect, has no mean reach, and these threatened to drag 
him in shreds from his perch; but he lustily thwacked 
them upon the nose. After vainly trying him, and being 
beaten down, having kept him an uneasy prisoner until 
darkness they retired, and he descended with difficulty, 
under a cloudy sky, to reach camp again. 

While en route to the rendezvous a juncture was made 
with a Rocky Mountain Company party under Bridger, and 
the travel was resumed to the Valley of the Green, for the 
annual market. 

The summer rendezvous of 1833, in the well-beloved 
Valley of the Green, was one of the greatest ever held. 
The rivalry of the Rocky Mountain Company and the 
American Company was at its height, and Captain Bonne- 
ville likewise was exerting himself to the utmost. No trap- 
per was necessarily out of employment ; furs went rapidly. 

The rendezvous dissolved, and there was a great parting 
of the ways. The youth Nathaniel Wyeth, after his winter 
in Oregon (where, truth to say, he had been more kindly 
treated by the British company than he had been, or would 


be, treated by his American competitors) proceeded on to 
Boston, there to close a contract with Milton Sublette for 
bringing supplies to the Rocky Mountain Fur Company 
rendezvous of the next year; to form the Columbia River 
Fishing and Trading Company; and altogether to plan 
great things ignorant, he, as yet (so mysterious are the 
works of Providence), that his training had been shaped 
to far greater purpose the escorting across the plains of 
the first missionaries, Jason Lee and party, as a wedge 
widening the crack made by the fur hunters, so that into 
Oregon might enter the creaking canvas-top wagons of the 
emigrants from the States. 

So from the rendezvous Wyeth, his work cut out for him, 
proceeded on courier way home to Boston. In the opposite 
direction rode a Bonneville detachment under Joe Walker, 
for the west side of the Great Salt Lake, inadvertently or not 
to blaze the emigrant Overland Trail across the desert to 
golden California. 

The various other companies and squads of fur hunters, 
for the Rocky Mountain Company, for the American Com- 
pany, for the Bonneville Company, for the Hudson Bay 
Company, for the free companies, separated to trap wher- 
ever fortune good or ill indicated. 

As for Kit Carson's movements this fall and winter, the 
chronicler is confronted by a multiplicity of choices, of 
which none are satisfactory. By a few corroborative dates 
we may check Carson's adventures: by the founding of 
Fort Hall, in 1834; by his alliance with Joseph Gale in 
1834; by the date of his duel at the rendezvous of 1835; 
by the forting against the Blackfeet, in 1835; by the death 
of Fontenelle in 1837; by the rendezvous of 1837. Yet 
in any extant biography of him, his wanderings are repre- 
sented so independently of these dates that time seems to 
have been kept by notches on a forked stick. 

This fall of 1833 may perhaps have been the one when, 


enlisted with a company of fifty men, he traveled to the 
Three Forks country of the sources of the Missouri, in 
Montana, and there was excessively annoyed by the Black- 
feet; but it would be more reasonable to send him south- 
ward into western Colorado and the desert of the Southwest, 
with the German Fraeb and the French Canadian Gervais, 
to hunt and to spend the winter. Meantime the Walker 
party, emulating Jedediah Smith, crossed the western desert 
in a new place ; fully recuperated amidst the hospitality of 
Monterey, where bullfights and fandangos and the smiles 
of senoritas welcomed them, and in February and spring, 
1834, were backward journeying, to report, on the Bear 
River, to Captain Bonneville that they had done nothing 
with the talents entrusted to them. 

A portion of the party, however, swung more to the 
south, roistered through the lower country, of the Mohaves 
on the Colorado River, and on freebooter course continu- 
ing to the Gila, thence turned north and struck the Williams 
Fork of the Colorado. This they ascended, and met with 
the Rocky Mountain Company division of Fraeb and Ger- 
vais, which included Kit Carson, again in his first grounds 
of 1829, traversed under Ewing Young. 

In this fall of 1833 and spring of 1834 the desert had 
suddenly become the fashion and a strange fashion when 
we realize how much more pleasant and profitable were the 

Two hundred strong, the united parties proceeded east- 
ward to the Colorado Chiquito the Flax, or the Little 
Colorado, River (neither title equaling the Spanish) ; and 
here they lawlessly, in true freebooter style, plundered the 
Moqui melon gardens. For resisting, twenty of the Moquis 
were shot to death ; and the unripe as well as the ripe fruit 
was destroyed. 

Pointing northwest, having thus sown the seeds of hatred 
and death, and leaving the ruined Moquis to curse the 


vandal whites, the trappers rode onward across the north- 
western corner of New Mexico and struck the headwaters 
of the Rio Grande del Norte, in Colorado's San Luis 
Park. The objective point was the South Park. 

It is likely that some of the party diverged to Taos, now 
only eighty miles distant, or to Bent's Fort on the Arkansas, 
for we find Kit Carson, Joe Meek, William Mitchell, and 
three Delawares, Tom Hill, Jonas, and Manhead (the last- 
named to be slain in due time by the Blackfeet) on a hunt 
in southeastern Colorado " in the country lying between 
the Arkansas and Cimarron, where numerous small branches 
of these rivers head together, or within a small extent of 

Now occurred another Kit Carson adventure a grim, 
plains Indian fight, no more, no less than a hundred fights 
which have by their blood fertilized the Great American 
Desert, but a fight such as no man wishes to repeat. 

On a May morning the six hunters were charged by some 
two hundred Comanches, those riders of the southern plains 
equal to their allies, the fierce Kiowas. The whites and 
Delawares barely had time in which to cut the throats of 
their saddle mules, and to form a fort of the dead bodies 
(in trapper style) before the Comanches were upon them, 
only to recoil before their rifles. 

An all-day fight ensued; the trappers strengthened their 
barricade of mule carcasses by digging pits behind. The 
Comanches charged again, " the medicine-man in advance 
shouting, gesticulating, and making a desperate clatter with 
a rattle which he carried and shook violently. The yelling, 
the whooping, the rattling, the force of the charge were 
appalling." Three of the trappers fired, while the other 
three reloaded; the Comanche horses shrank from the 
smell of the mule blood ; and the warriors could not reach 
the little fort. 

Three medicine men were killed; and each time the 


Comanches must retire to choose a new one. During the 
confabs, the squaws approached to bear off the slain and 
to revile the defenders. The attacking force was armed prin- 
cipally with the regulation Comanche long lance, attached 
to hair rope for recovery, and with bows and arrows. The 
siege and the reiterated assaults lasted until nightfall, so 
that without shade and water, under the blazing sun, and 
tortured by dust and heat and powder-reek, the three whites 
and the three Delawares were desperately put to it. 

That the Comanches fought bravely is attested by the 
record of forty-two killed. Finally, having " lost faith in 
their medicine," they retired. 

When the coast was deemed clear, the six trappers shoul- 
dered blanket and gun and maintained a dogtrot all night, 
making for the mountains and camp, and did not reach 
water until they had covered seventy-five miles. 

The main camp of the party was in Colorado's South 
Park, where the spring fur hunt was finished out. The 
summer rendezvous was held as customary in the Valley 
of the Green. 

Here now gathered the various trapping bands of the 
companies and the free men, save those of Captain Bonne- 
ville, which had met in the Valley of the Bear, southward. 
The Cambridge knight-errant, Nathaniel Wyeth, arrived 
with supplies and sixty men. He was full of hope, but 
Milton Sublette proved false to his promise, and the Rocky 
Mountain Fur Company, favoring William Sublette, the 
trader, former partisan, and Milton's brother, refused to 
take the Wyeth goods. So amidst the wassailing and yarn- 
ing there was bitter feeling; Wyeth protested, Fitzpatrick, 
" the Bad Hand," railed against the loss of his pack train at 
the hands of the Crows, instigated, he alleged, by the 
American Fur Company; Captain Bonneville had been 
seducing the rank and file by lavish liquor and by proffers of 
higher pay ; the beaver business was demoralized ; and early 


in the rendezvous the Rocky Mountain Company had issued 
the following statement: 

Whereas a dissolution of partnership having taken place by 
mutual consent between Thos. Fitzpatrick, Milton G. Sublette, 
Henry Fraeb, John Baptiste Jervais and James Bridger, mem- 
bers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, all persons having 
demands against said company are requested to come for- 
ward and receive payment, those indebted to said firm are 
desired to call and make immediate payment as they are 
anxious to close the business of the concern. 
Ham's fork June 20, 1834. 





JAMES BRIDGER (his mark) 

Wit. : W. L. Sublette for Bridger & Fitzpatrick. 
Wit. : J. P. Risley for Fraeb & Gervais. 

The public are hereby notified that the business will in future 
be conducted by Thomas Fitzpatrick, Milton G. Sublette, & 
James Bridger, under the style and firm of Fitzpatrick, Sub- 
lette & Bridger. 
Ham's fork June 20, 1834. 



JAMES BRIDGER (his mark) 
Wit. : W. L. Sublette. 

Thus dissolved the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, of 
robust lineage. The evil days of bad faith and of con- 
cupiscence had fallen upon the beaver trail. At the close 
of the rendezvous, Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth of the Columbia 
River Fishing and Trading Company departed, disappointed 
but not yet defeated in his endeavor to enter the mountain 
trade, hoping to clear himself by ventures at the Pacific end 
of the great river of Oregon, and with the threat (well 
fulfilled) to " roll into the garden " of Milton Sublette and 
associates " a stone which they cannot remove." The bri- 


gades and companies departed east, west, north, and south. 
For the Columbia was already hastening Captain Bonne- 
ville to sweep the country ahead of his fellow struggler 
Wyeth. And over the Oregon Trail, yet in its embryo 
form, from the rendezvous which they had visited, traveled 
the two missionaries, Jason and Daniel Lee, and a company, 
bearing the gospel of the white East to the red West. 

They, and not the dissolution of the Rocky Mountain 
Company, mark the epoch of the summer of 1834. The 
beaver hunters were the scouts, the missionaries were the 
pioneers, of the westward march of the white civilization. 

However, let us not omit Hall J. Kelly and Ewing 
Young, who at this moment are out of California and near- 
ing Oregon. Of Ewing Young we know. Of Hall J. Kelly 
more should be known. A Boston man, born in 1791; 
Harvard graduate, scholar and gentleman ; textbook writer, 
surveyor, mathematician, through almost thirty years, or 
since 1815, inspired by the Lewis and Clark expedition 
he has been preaching Oregon, ever Oregon; but for the 
most part he has been a prophet dishonored in his own 
country. Known to history more or less slightingly as 
" the Boston schoolmaster," planning for a great 1832 emi- 
gration, in 1827 he issued a circular " To all persons who 
wish to migrate to Oregon Territory." He memorialized 
Congress upon the subject; in 1829 he asked for a grant, 
to American citizenship, of twenty-five miles in the Colum- 
bia district. With the traditional schoolman's lack of the 
practical he bid without his host, for under joint occu- 
pancy with Great Britain such a grant was beyond the scope 
of Congress, even should Congress (itself impractical) listen 
to his Cassandra voice. Now, in 1834, for four years he 
has urged personally in the lobbies at Washington the 
American occupancy of Oregon. Heartsick but enthusias- 
tic and determined, all his other schemes for a coloni- 
zation come to naught, save to interest Nathaniel Wyeth, 


in 1833, forty-two years old, by sea and land he headed, 
via Vera Cruz, for California, thence to make for Oregon, 
and to send back his reports. 

In this summer of 1834 he encounters in Monterey Cap- 
tain Ewing Young. He has worked in vain to ingratiate 
himself with Governor Figueroa, a suspicious Mexican. 
But with Young, nothing loth to embark in a trading 
venture, and with eight others, with ninety-eight horses 
and mules, the nucleus of a stock ranch, he continues on 
for the land of his dreams. Nine " marauders " convoying 
fifty-six stolen animals join them, and prove their undoing. 
Young should have known better but perhaps he was not 
opposed to despoiling the Latin. 

Governor Brigadier General Jose Figueroa, short in reign, 
" of Aztec blood, and hence swarthy in color," 47 extremely 
zealous against the foreigner, saw his opportunity, and 
promptly dispatched word to Governor John McLoughlin 
of the Hudson Bay Company at Vancouver that a party of 
American outlaws, with their plunder from California, were 
upon their way to the British possessions. 

Therefore when the Kelly- Young Company arrived at 
Vancouver innocent of theft (save by their association 
with the nine disreputables, who ere this had diverged upon 
another course) although upon the trail they had met 
with succor from Hudson Bay trappers, they were received 
by Governor McLoughlin with suspicion. Kelly was refused 
a seat at the " gentleman's mess "of the McLoughlin table ; 
and this cut him to the soul. Young stayed on; he w r as of 
fiber innured to rebuff by nature or by man. But remaining 
scarce a year, a broken crusader, a penniless scholar, a 
ragged surveyor, a proscribed citizen, ill in mind as in body, 
Hall J. Kelly sailed again for home in his pocket to 
help him on his way thirty-five dollars from the governor, 
whose right hand was the hand of Company policy while 
his left hand was so often the hand of human charity. 48 



(Courtesy of the Oregon Historical 




(Courtesy of the Oregon Historical 



(Courtesy of the Oregon Historical 


OREGON, 1838 

(Courtesy of the Oregon Historical 


TO OREGON, 1838 

(Courtesy of the Oregon Historical 


OREGON, 1838 

(Courtesy of the Oregon Historical 



(Courtesy of the Oregon Historical 



(Courtesy of the Missouri Historical 


IT MAY be said that the first invasion of Oregon Territory 
by missionaries from the States did not have any 
conscious purpose of colonizing the Pacific coast. In the 
spring of 1833, when by the Christian Advocate and Journal 
and Zion's Herald, the " Macedonian cry " was repeated 
through the Atlantic coast cities, to the people of the East 
Oregon was an immense, indefinite country, comprising all 
the fur region beyond the Rocky Mountains, where flowed 
the rivers discovered by Lewis and Clark and the Astor 
expeditions. And while the spasmodic irruptions in Con- 
gress, the pronunciamentos of the zealous Hall Kelly, and 
the business endeavors of Nathaniel J. Wyeth, were direct- 
ing attention afresh to Oregon (even, it is claimed, arous- 
ing interest from those who were to be the first of the Prot- 
estant missionaries), nevertheless the initial missionary 
journey of Jason and Daniel Lee, Cyrus Shepard and Philip 
L. Edwards had in view a gospel establishment among only 
the Flatheads whose home was but the nearer edge of 

Wisely did Representative McCormick of Arizona in an 
address before the National House of later day call atten- 
tion to the fact that the western Indians; are not cut from 
the one cloth ; but that they " differ as much from each 
other as Americans do from Japanese or Chinese " ; that 
some incline to barbarism, some to civilization. The Amer- 
ican white man has been disposed to regard an Indian as 
an Indian, and as a bad Indian, and to apply one set of 
regulations and one standard of measure to them all. 



From the time of their first contact (so far as recorded) 
with the whites in the persons of the Lewis and Clark 
expedition of 1804-1806, the Nez Perce Indians and the 
Flathead Indians (somewhat confused by early narratives), 
have been awarded a high plane of intelligence, cleanliness, 
probity, and morality. A Nez Perce or Flathead wife was 
the trapper's prize. Through these two tribes ran a strange 
vein of religious fervor approaching that of the Brahman. 
Long before the licensed missionary from the East had 
approached them, the Book in his hand, these Flatheads and 
Nez Perces appear to have followed a worship akin to the 
worship of the Christian. 

Captain Bonneville, who was among Nez Perces in the 
fall of 1832, relates the rebuke which he received when he 
proposed to them a buffalo hunt upon a day set apart by 
a sacred calendar that they maintained. And the Sabbath 
was observed regularly by a religious dance and by exhor- 
tations from the chiefs as priests. 

The Flatheads, also, and the " Skynses " ( Skyuses, Cay- 
uses), like their neighbors the Nez Perces, observed the 
Sabbath with devotional exercises. 

In the Southwest, the Roman Catholic priest was the 
leader in proselyting, but here in the Northwest Protestant- 
ism led the way, through a land as dure and as wild as 
ever confronted the Jesuit and the Franciscan. It seems, 
however, to have been Romanism that was again first in the 
field among the so-called infidels; for before ever the 
famous Flathead delegation in search of the Book of Heav- 
en visited St. Louis, the Roman Catholic religion was 
well implanted amidst several of the tribes beyond the 

Captain Bonneville found the Nez Perces, the Flatheads 
and the " Skynses " (Cayuses?) in 1832 already following, 
after a fashion rude but sincere, the ritual and the calendar 
of the Roman church, the rites having been propagated 


among them by two Iroquois Indians from an early Cana- 
dian mission. 

It must be remembered that throughout the tribes west 
of the mountains, in the Oregon Territory of the North- 
west, there had been circulating for twenty years the 
employees of the British fur companies, mainly French 
Canadians and good Catholics. The Indians absorbed much 
precept and doctrine. And at the posts of the Hudson Bay 
Company in particular, as at Fort Walla Walla under Chief 
Trader Pambrun, and at Ft. George (Vancouver) under 
Governor John McLoughlin, pains were taken to impress 
the visiting natives with the force of the Roman faith. 
With Agent Pambrun this was sincere proselyting but 
the fact was not forgotten that the Christianized Indian was 
the better Indian with whom to deal. 

John W. York, Methodist minister of St. Louis in 1830, 
stated to Judge J. Q. Thornton that September 17, five dele- 
gates, Nez Perces, Flatheads, or Iroquois from the Colum- 
bia, arrived there in quest of religious aid ; and that General 
Clark, who was a Catholic, sent for him and the Reverend 
Alliston and Edmundson, for inquiry into the possibility 
of the Methodists replying with missionaries. 49 

But now, in the midseason of 1832 there arrived in New 
York four Columbia country Indians, seeking General Wil- 
liam Clark (whom they remembered from 1805) an< ^ 
inquiring further about the white man's Book of Heaven. 

A touch of romance pervades the instigation which urged 
them to this long trip. 

It appeared that some white man had penetrated into their 
country, and happened to be a spectator at one of their reli- 
gious ceremonies, which they scrupulously perform at stated 
periods. He informed them that their mode of worshipping 
the supreme Being was radically wrong, and instead of being 
acceptable and pleasing, it was displeasing to him; he also 
informed them that the white people away toward the rising 


of the sun had been put in possession of the true mode of 
worshipping the great Spirit. They had a book containing 
directions how to conduct themselves in order to enjoy his 
favor and hold converse with him; and with this guide, no 
one need go astray ; but every one that would follow the direc- 
tions laid down there could enjoy, in this life, his favor, and 
after death would be received into the country where the great 
Spirit resides, and live forever with him. 

Thus, in a letter published in the Christian Advocate and 
Journal and Zion's Herald, under date of January 19, 1833, 
declares William Walker, an educated Wyandotte and mis- 
sionary among that nation, who was in St. Louis at the 
time of the Flatheads' visit and who saw them at the house 
of General Clark. The man who, as a Protestant, instructed 
the Flatheads in the existence of the Bible, is presumed to 
have been Jedediah S. Smith; for he spent the winter of 
1824-25 among the Flatheads. If indeed his teachings 
there influenced the deputation of 1832, then, no matter 
that he died in his prime before his history and atlas were 
prepared, he did not live in vain. 

It is declared by this same William Walker that General 
Clark did his best to inform the Flatheads upon the Christ 
and the Bible. However, after having been much feted 
(paying the penalty which civilization inflicts upon distin- 
guished guests, and no civilization in a greater degree than 
the American), in November or December of that year, 
1832, they must sadly part, without the Bible or at least 
without anyone who could translate it to them, and less 
two of their number, victims of " change of climate and of 

The two surviving Indians left; and when, afterward, 
the famous artist, Catlin, heard of their errand, he declared 
that they were passengers upon the very steamboat of the 
American Fur Company by which he himself was taken 
to the mouth of the Yellowstone, on his initial trip into the 


Indian country of the far West. But the religious fervor 
which the visit of these four strangers aroused must have 
communicated itself to Catlin, causing him to clutch at 
straws. As he ascended the Missouri at the opening of 
navigation in 1832, and the two Indians took the home 
trail by land, after the close of navigation in 1832, he could 
not have met them nor immortalized them in his great port- 

But let us not probe romance too ruthlessly although 
if we strip away banquets and speeches and voyage with 
Catlin we still have the basic fact that four Indians from the 
upper Columbia did, in the late summer or early fall of 1832, 
seek religious instructions at St. Louis. The elder two died, 
there; the two younger members left, in the late fall or 
early winter, for their tribe. 

Not until spring of 1833 did the news filter through to 
the East ; but then, by publication in the Christian Advocate, 
the Protestant Church from north to south along the 
Atlantic coast was electrified. In this delegation from a 
region upon the continent and within the tentative bounds 
of the United States, but less known than India or the Sand- 
wich Islands, was an appeal which reached every heart. 

With a " Hear ! Hear ! Who will respond to the call 
from beyond the Rocky Mountains ? " Dr. Wilbur Fisk, 
already at forty a famous divine, and president of Wesleyan 
College of Middletown, Connecticut, in a ringing editorial 
summoned Methodism to establish a Flathead mission. 
" Money shall be forthcoming. I will be bondsman for the 
church. All we want is men. Who will go? Who? 
* * * Were I young, healthy, and unencumbered, how 
joyfully would I go ! But this honor is for another. Bright 
will be his crown, glorious his reward." 

At this time, although foreign missions were being zeal- 
ously prosecuted by all the Protestant churches, the domestic 
missions among the Indians had not been overlooked. 


Instituted first among the tribes of the East and South, 
and in Canada, as the tribes had been moved westward 
the missions had accompanied them. 

The idea expressed in 1804 by President Jefferson, that 
the new Louisiana Purchase would afford an asylum for 
these doubtful wards, the Indians, at last (or in January, 
1825,) had been presented in proper shape to Congress by 
President Monroe as one of the final acts of his administra- 
tion. The result was the establishment of an " Indian 
Frontier." By treaty of June, 1825, the Osages and the 
Kaws or Kansas surrendered their vast hunting range in 
the Southwest, along the Santa Fe Trail. The government 
hastened to remove here its Indians from the states of the 
South; and now the movement of other tribes also was 
rapidly promoted the country so exchanged with them 
" forever secured and guaranteed to them and their heirs 
or successors," their fate " left to the common God of the 
white man and the Indian," themselves isolated and inde- 
pendent, left " to the progress of events " what uncon- 
scious irony! 

In 1835 the boundaries of the " Indian Territory " were 
defined by the Annual Register of Indian Affairs as " begin- 
ning on Red River, east of the Mexican boundary and as 
far west of Arkansas Territory as the country is habitable, 
thence down Red River eastwardly to Arkansas Territory; 
thence northwardly along the line of the Arkansas Terri- 
tory to the State of Missouri ; thence up Missouri River to 
Pimcah (Puncah, /. e. f Niobrara) River; thence westwardly 
as far as the country is habitable, and thence southwardly 
to the beginning." 

The italics are the author's. In this Indian country dwelt, 
according to rough estimate, some 100,000 Indians; and 
here, beyond the Mississippi, the various churches were 
represented among the Cherokees, Choctaws, Kansas, Paw- 
nees, Creeks, Omahas, lowas, Delawares, Otoes, Potawato- 


mi, Shawnees, Kickapoos, and so on, as far as the country 
was habitable. Truly it was a noble work, in which men and 
women died, and in which the harvest was great, but the 
laborers were few. Beyond, in that " uninhabitable coun- 
try," were the Sioux (they, however, being approached by 
way of Fort Snelling, Minnesota), the Comanches, the 
Blackfeet, the Snakes, the Arapahos strange, roving, 
thoroughly wild people, not yet within the fold. 

But the delegation of the Columbia River Indians prof- 
fered another foothold. Dr. Fisk had called " for two suit- 
able men, unencumbered with families, possessing the spirit 
of martyrs," to " throw themselves into the nation live 
with them learn their language preach Christ to them." 
He himself had one such man in mind, and that was Rever- 
end Jason Lee, a Canadian but an American, once a pupil 
of his at Wilbraham Academy of Massachusetts, now sta- 
tioned at Stanstead, Province of Quebec, and employed in 
missionary work among the Indians of Canada. 50 

The blood of that great New England preacher, the 
" Apostle of Methodism," Jesse Lee, must have been strong 
in this second generation. The summons by Dr. Fisk in 
the Christian Advocate appeared in March, and at the 
Boston session of the New England Conference in June fol- 
lowing, Jason Lee, having resigned his Canadian field, was 
appointed superintendent of the new Oregon mission ! Tall, 
stooped, awkward and honest, " of good digestion and a 
sound mind," he was the choice reflecting Dr. Fisk's excel- 
lent judgment. 

In August his nephew, Reverend Daniel Lee, was 
appointed as his fellow laborer. He, too, " was not an 
Adonis"; but like his uncle stood as an example of the 
plain, orthodox, New England Methodist preacher, and of 
a youth preordained to the cause of souls. 

In the Christian Advocate there had been published advice 
from Robert Campbell, the trader and St. Louis citizen, 


upon the prospects of the Columbia country, and upon the 
method of getting there, overland: namely, by escort of 
fur trader caravan. 

And I doubt not but that they would willingly allow a mis- 
sionary to accompany them; but the privations that a gentle- 
man of that profession would have to encounter would be very 
great, as the shortest route that he would have by land would 
not be less than one thousand miles, and when he reached his 
destination he would have to travel with the Indians, as they 
have no permanent villages, nor have the traders any houses, 
but, like the Indians, move in their leather lodges from place 
to place throughout the season. 

Never was a blind cry so blindly answered. But totally 
ignorant, as were the great majority of Easterners, of the 
far western land, its methods, distances, businesses, phases 
of climate, and inhabitants, by naught were the Lees and 
Methodism deterred. Transportation was the problem (the 
summer being advanced), and a voyage around the Horn 
was advocated, until in November " notice appeared in 
the public journals that Captain N. J. Wyeth, of Cambridge, 
Mass., had recently returned from a tour west of the Rocky 
Mountains, and that he contemplated returning to Oregon 
in the following spring/' 

The way seemed opened; and Captain Wyeth, whose 
remarkable energy and performances, being directed along 
secular lines, had attracted little if any notice from the 
spiritual workers of the land, was sought in Boston by 
Jason Lee himself. From Captain Wyeth " valuable infor- 
mation was received respecting the state of the country, the 
general character and disposition of the Indian tribes inhab- 
iting the Oregon territory; and he likewise manifested a 
disposition to give every aid in his power to the mission." 51 

Accordingly, when the Columbia River Fishing and Trad- 
ing Company ship, May Dacre, laden with Wyeth's hopes 


and the company supplies, sailed on the last of November, 
1833, out of Boston for the port of Vancouver, it bore also 
the supplies for the prospective missionary station of the 
Methodist Church in Oregon. 

And when, on April 28, 1834, the united caravans of 
Wyeth and Milton Sublette issued from Independence, they 
convoyed into the West Reverend Jason Lee, Reverend 
Daniel Lee, Lay Missionary Cyrus Shepard of Lynn, Mass., 
and Lay Missionary Philip L. Edwards of Richmond, Mo., 
crusaders of the church militant. 

Besides the four missionaries, so bravely facing two thou- 
sand miles of hard travel to which they were wholly 
unwonted, as guests with the caravan were two other men, 
scientists who blazed the trail for Audubon. Long before, 
or in 1811, had John Bradbury, the English naturalist, 
ascended the Missouri with the Astorian expedition under 
Wilson Hunt. He was the pioneer, inspired, of course, by 
the observations of the first-of-all Lewis and Clark. Now 
in 1834, Thomas Nuttall, Englishman, Harvard professor, 
and botanist, who had been with John Bradbury in 1811, 
was about to cross the continent, and had as companion J. 
K. Townsend, ornithologist, whose name is retained in 
Townsend's warbler of the Pacific coast. 

With seventy men, 250 horses, and the missionaries' 
cattle, the caravan proceeded, following the regulation trail 
which led from old Independence across the Kansas River 
at its mouth, thence to the Platte and through Nebraska 
up the Platte and the North Platte to the Sweetwater of the 
Laramie Plains of Wyoming. 

Thus the Oregon Trail was for the first time pressed by 
actual colonizers the forerunning emigrants of the host 
already restless behind. 

In June the noted spectacles of the trail Chimney Rock, 
Independence Rock, Devil's Gate, South Pass, Wind River 
Mountains were witnessed, and left; and on the 


the missionaries pitched their camp amidst the fur rendez- 
vous upon Ham's Fork in the Valley of the Green. This 
wild gathering, rife with lawless passion of men red and 
white, at once fascinating and repellent, must have impressed 
Messrs. Lee, Shepard, and Edwards with the seriousness of 
the life before them. And here they might study Indians 
such as they nor others of their cloth ever had seen; here 
they might for the first time study the Flatheads, their 
wards in prospect. 

Wyeth must remain two weeks ; then, on July 3, with his 
goods thrown upon his hands by the Rocky Mountain Com- 
pany, and his first disappointment of 1834 encountered, he 
pushed on, with him Nuttall and Townsend, and the inde- 
fatigable Captain Sir William Stuart, British sportsman. 

At the juncture of the Portneuf with the Snake in Idaho, 
the resourceful Yankee youth, not yet licked, stopped the 
party (126 horses, forty men) to build his own fort, which 
should house and distribute his trading goods. 

Here arrived Thomas McKay and his company of Hud- 
son Bay employees; half of these were Indians (probably 
Cayuses, Flatheads, and Nez Perces), and again the white 
missionaries had the chance to study their future charges 
even having a chance to see them at their devotions, 
" conducted very seriously, but after a fashion all their 
own." Jason Lee, who, it is stated, " was a man all liked 
and respected," and who evidently was making good in 
trapper opinion if not in trapper souls, preached to the 
assembled habitants and natives; then, with his associates, 
with McKay and Captain Stuart, as the fort was not fin- 
ished, he pressed forward, down the Snake. They left 
behind Wyeth, with his company, to complete the fort, to 
name it Fort Hall, to hoist over it an American flag of sheet- 
ing, red flannel, and blue patches, and salute this " with 
damaged powder and to wet it with villainous alcohol." 
The date was August 5, 1834. Consigning his post to the 


care and occupancy of eleven men, fourteen horses and 
mules and three cows, in charge of one Evans, the busy 
Wyeth hastened onward, on the trail of the preceding 
McKay and the missionaries, for the coast. There he would 
meet his vessel, May Dacre and find only more dis- 

The Lees, Shepard, and Edwards had learned much since 
they crossed the mountains by South Pass. They could real- 
ize how difficult it would be to maintain a mission in the Flat- 
head country, so remote it was, so far from supplies and so 
sparsely inhabited. And as Protestants they perhaps were 
indeed received, by Canadians and convert Iroquois alike, 
with the subtle opposition of a Romanism already estab- 

Whether rebuffed by the country, or people, or both, the 
missionary party decided to continue on westward to the 
lower Columbia and make that their base. So they pressed 
ahead, through the desolate region along the Snake, to 
plant the Bible. 

At Walla Walla they left their horses and cattle, for later 
disposal, and embarking upon another wild trip, in Hudson 
Bay Company log canoes, they descended the Columbia to 
Vancouver and Fort George of the Hudson Bay Company. 
Here they arrived on September 15, to sleep again under 
a roof, for the first time after one hundred and fifty nights 
in trappers' lodges or under the stars. 

Thus may we leave them; the Bible has crossed the con- 
tinent ; the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers scarce was more 
significant, for the American mission in Oregon meant 
that the western half, like the eastern half of a continent, 
was to be settled under a free constitution. From the mis- 
sionary movement came Whitman, and if we may believe 
the word of man, Whitman saved Oregon. But even elimi- 
nating the human purpose in the ride of Marcus Whitman, 
a few years of the missionaries of the Protestant Church 


made the Oregon Territory better known to the eastern 
people than did all the years of the fur hunters. 

Let us pass to the summer of 1835, and to another ren- 
dezvous in the Valley of the Green; for inasmuch as the 
only method of crossing the plains and mountains was under 
the auspices of the spring trading caravans out of Independ- 
ence, the annual markets for the next five or six years 
form paragraphs in the annals of the Protestant missions to 

At this rendezvous of July and August, 1835, appear 
Reverend Samuel Parker, A. M., of the Dutch Reformed 
(Presbyterian) Church, and Dr. Marcus Whitman, mis- 
sionary physician. Reverend Mr. Parker is from Ithaca, 
New York; Dr. Whitman is from Wheeler. Since March 
14 they have been upon their journey, having left Council 
Bluffs June 21, with the American Fur Company caravan 
under Lucien Fontenelle; and from Fort William (prede- 
cessor of Fort Laramie) continuing under Thomas Fitz- 
patrick, who there assumed charge of the march. 

These two men, the Reverend Samuel Parker, A. M., 
and Marcus Whitman, M. D., dispatched by the American 
Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, differed 
much in character. The Reverend Mr. Parker was typically 
serious, viewing any levity as verging upon sin, taking 
life hard, his soul continually " pained." Dr. Whitman, 
younger, livelier, adaptable, more quickly made friends 
among the rough trappers and traders. 

Down the Ohio and up the Missouri to Liberty and 
Council Bluffs, Mr. Parker distributed his tracts and held 
services. The land and people impressed him as heathenish. 
He and the doctor would not travel on Sunday, at first, 
and the caravan went on without them its men offended 
by the implied rebuke and probably disgruntled over being 
burdened with finicky tenderfeet. After a scourge of chol- 
era which they lightened, the doctor and the missionary 


learned that some of the men of the caravan actually had 
planned to put them out of the way and thus be rid of their 
wet-blanket presence. 

At the rendezvous, Dr. Whitman extracted arrowheads 
from the back of two trappers one being Jim Bridger. 
By conversation, through an interpreter, with the Flat- 
heads, and Nez Perces, Mr. Parker ascertained, to his 
satisfaction, that the " field was white for the harvest." 
Dr. Whitman, out of the zeal and energy which character- 
ized him, decided that he ought to return to the East with 
the caravan, to report in person upon the need of more 
missionaries, and to bring out a party with the next caravan 
of 1835, thus saving a year of time. Mr. Parker proceeded 
alone to the coast. 

Joe Meek, the mountain man, in his biography speaks 
slightingly of Mr. Parker, who did not, it would seem, 
make the good impression made by Jason Lee. It was 
difficult for Mr. Parker to temporize with the evils which 
he met; the wild ways of the mountains visibly shocked 

He arrived at Vancouver on November 16, 1835. 
Although his stay in Oregon comprised only about seven 
months (he sailed thence June 28, 1836, for Connecticut, 
via the Sandwich Islands) he thoroughly explored the 
interior of the Columbia basin, the purpose for which he 
was sent out by the Board. The most notable result of his 
visit was his book, Journal of an Exploring Tour Beyond 
the Rocky Mountains, which, published with map in 1838, 
endorsed by Noah Webster, President Humphrey and Pro- 
fessor Hitchcock of Amherst, and written in scholarly 
manner, is the first account, after that by Lewis and Clark, 
of the upper Platte and the Columbia country scenery, 
inhabitants, geology, zoology, climate and customs and is 
the very first book devoted largely to Oregon. 52 

While Reverend Samuel Parker is gathering facts and 


spreading the Word up the Columbia of Oregon, further 
than the Lees and associates had yet penetrated, Dr. Whit- 
man, aflame with great purpose, is hastening hither and 
thither through New England, not the least of his encour- 
agements his betrothed, the noble Narcissa Prentiss of 
Angelica, New York. Dr. Whitman had taken back with 
him, from the Snake River, two Nez Perce boys, that he 
might present tangible evidence of the work awaiting, 
beyond the mountains. With these, and through his own 
efforts, he counted upon forming a party for the caravan 
trip of 1836. 

It is stated that there was some difficulty in obtaining 
the desired companions; not, let it be understood, that 
flesh and spirit were wanting, and that the heroic breed 
of Protestant missionaries had so early been exhausted, but 
because Marcus Whitman had determined that his young 
bride should be permitted to make the long journey, and 
he was looking for another white woman and wife to be 
her associate. 

. . . and then light came from an unexpected quarter. In the 
early spring of 1836 a sleigh, extemporized from a wagon, was 
crunching through the deep snows of western New York. It 
contained the Reverend and Mrs. Spalding, who were on their 
way, under commission of the American Board, to the Osage 
Indians. The wife had started from a bed of lingering ill- 
ness, and was then able to walk less than a quarter of a mile. 

Dr. Whitman, having heard of the rare courage of this 
woman, by permission of the board, started in pursuit. 

" We want you for Oregon," was the hail with which he 
overtook them. 

" How long will the journey take? " 

" The summers of two years." 

" What convoy shall we have ? " 

" The American Fur Company to the Divide." 

" What shall we have to live on? " 

" Buffalo meat, till we can raise our own grain." 

" How shall we journey? " 


" On horseback/' 

" How cross the rivers ? " 

" Swim them." 

Mr. Spalding decided instantly, as for himself. And 
after prayer, apart, in the tavern at Howard, New York, 
Mrs. Spalding appeared with beaming face. 

" I have made up my mind to go." 

" But your health, my dear." 

" I like the command just as it stands. ' Go ye into all the 
world/ and no exceptions for poor health." 

" But the perils, in your weak condition you do n't begin 
to think how great they are." 

" The dangers of the way and the weakness of my body are 
His; duty is mine." 5S 

The die was cast. They went the two women, both 
tender, each a bride and one an invalid. The maxim on 
the Sweetwater trail long had been : " No white woman 
can cross the mountains and live." 

The little party numbered five: Missionary Physician 
Dr. Marcus Whitman, aged thirty-three; Narcissa Prentiss 
Whitman, his bride, aged twenty-eight; Missionary Henry 
H. Spalding, of Prattsburgh, N. Y., who but three years 
before had been graduated from Western Reserve College, 
and who was about the same age as Dr. Whitman; Eliza 
Hart Spalding of Trenton, N. Y., his wife; Assistant Mis- 
sionary William H. Gray, aged twenty-five, of Utica, who 
would serve also as agent of farming and mechanics. 54 

The start was made in February by the Spaldings and in 
March by the others. From the very beginning the way 
was rendered hard. At Pittsburg, Catlin the artist told tales 
of horrors to them, and would dissuade them. At St. Louis 
the Fur Company declined to accept them as passengers, 
and yielded only to the insistence of Whitman, who 
reminded the men how he had rescued them in the cholera 


scourge, a year before; how, " from behind the festering 
spine of a comrade," he had extracted the arrow heads. 
After the promise, the company's boat passed them, pur- 
posely, at Liberty Landing. A mule kicked Spalding ; ague 
attacked him; a cow, plunging overboard from a ferry, 
dragged him after; a hurricane leveled his tent, and 
drenched him again; and before the party, hastening after 
the recreant boat, had reached Council Bluffs, the company 
caravan had pulled out and was five days in advance. 

Mr. Spalding, sick and discouraged, would have turned. 
But his wife, stronger in spirit than in body, declared: " I 
have started for the Rocky Mountains and I expect to go 

With a cavvy of half-broken Missouri mules, fifteen or 
twenty horses, cattle, two wagons, and mission goods, the 
three men and the two women, guided by Dr. Whitman, 
the only member with any frontier experience whatsoever, 
set out to overtake the fur traders' caravan. Through a 
series of accidents which held the caravan back, after a two 
weeks' chase and after a final desperate spurt (wherein Mrs. 
Spalding fainted) from daylight until two o'clock the next 
morning, the race was won at the Loup Fork of the Platte ! 

But now that the missionary party had carried its point 
" nothing could exceed the kindness of the men. The 
choicest buffalo morsels were always kept for our ladies/' 
The party not only had won the race, but they had won the 
regard of the traders and trappers, who could appreciate 
pluck. Evidently the two women were not going to be 
a clog, as had been feared. At any rate, willynilly, the 
march must continue; and 200 persons, 600 animals, the 
caravan proceeded with military discipline up the Platte. 

Meat was the sole menu, and fresh meat at that. Once 
or twice this failed, and the camp went hungry. Mrs. 
Spalding, with whom the diet seemed to disagree, grew 
weaker; and at Fort William on the Laramie the captain 


of the caravan, Fitzpatrick, declared that Mrs. Spalding 
had come far enough; she would die for want of bread. 

"No," said she; "I started over the mountains in the 
name of my Savior, and I must go on." 55 

They went. 

By this time she rode a horse only with difficulty, and pre- 
ferred the lighter of the two mission wagons. The nine- 
teen wagons of the traders were left, as customary, at the 
fort, and the supplies were transferred to mule back; but 
Dr. Whitman insisted upon taking his party's two wagons 
on, for the Columbia. The British big-game hunter, Cap- 
tain Stuart, who bobs up, as usual, and was with the 
caravan, not to be outdone took onward a two-mule wagon 
of his own. 

Word had been sent ahead, by means of an express to the 
rendezvous, that the " Company " annual caravan was 
approaching, and that with it were two white women. 
Nothing could have created more excitement in the Valley 
of the Green. Instantly half a dozen of the trappers, includ- 
ing the ever-ready Joe Meek, had mounted and were speed- 
ing away, on a wild race with some of the Nez Perces, to bid 
the strangers welcome. 

So, ascending the Sweetwater for the South Pass, the 
missionaries witnessed this mad calvacade dashing down 
upon them, carrying in the muzzle of a rifle the white flag 
of peace, but by whoop and yelp and headlong charge appear- 
ing to give it the lie. 

Naturally, all eyes were upon the two women, thus ini- 
tiated into the wild ways of the wildest West. Some of 
the trappers had not seen a white woman for ten years ; the 
Indians had never seen a white woman. What they, trap- 
pers and Indians, saw now, was a slight, dark-haired, pallid 
skinned, delicate-featured, demure young woman in a 
wagon, gazing back studiously but with a quiet reserve. 
This was Mrs. Spalding. They saw, for the other, a larger, 


fuller, blue - eyed, sparkling - faced, generous - featured, 
brightly auburn-haired young woman, in perfect health, 
upon a horse, returning look for look and smile for 
smile, as if appreciative of the exhibition. This was Mrs. 

The caravan and the calvacade mounted South Pass, 
where, on this the Fourth of July, Mrs. Spalding again 
fainted. She was permitted to lie upon the ground and 

" Leave me and save yourselves," she begged. " Tell 
mother I am glad I came." 

But from the top the caravan sent back for her, and she 
proceeded. The march of this woman, across the plains 
and over the pass, and on, while fighting, every step, the 
pangs of an outraged flesh, her purpose only the good of an 
unknown and alien people, should rank higher than the 
march of any Franciscan or Jesuit of the Southwest. The 
Southwest has its heroes ; the Northwest has its heroine. 

Presently the Continental Divide of North America had 
been spanned; before, the waters flowed west; before, 
opened Oregon, where, crushed by horrors and many 
fatigues, Mrs. Spalding was later to sleep " under an Oregon 
clod," and whence, as symbol of martyrdom, returned, after 
thirty- four years, by the hand of Henry Spalding an old 
man broken and bereft only a lock of Mrs. Whitman's 
hair, of silky texture and reddish-gold color. 56 

On the Pacific slope of the South Pass the caravan halted, 
while the little band, at twelve o'clock noon of Independence 
Day, 1836, 

six years before Fremont, following in the footsteps of the 
women, gained the name of the " Path-finder," alighting from 
their horses and kneeling on the other half of the continent, 
with the Bible in one hand and the American flag in the other, 
took possession of it as the home of American mothers, and 
of the Church of Christ. 57 


Again are we reminded of Plymouth Rock. 

Down from the pass proceeded the caravan and retainers, 
to be met now by the charging cavalry of the Nez Perces 
and Flatheads en masse, arrayed in their brightest and 
bravest. With this additional escort the rendezvous was 
reached. Mrs. Whitman naturally attracted the men, but 
JMrs. Spalding, ill and delicate and reserved, attracted the 
women. The Indian squaws took her in charge, adminis- 
tered to her fibrous roots which effectively stopped the 
exhausting bowel trouble caused by the green buffalo meat, 
and " from that hour she began to mend, and from that 
hour her future and theirs were one." 

Fortunately this was the summer when the first Hudson 
Bay trading party, under McLeod, was sent to the American 
rendezvous ; with this party the missionaries traveled west- 
ward again. At the rendezvous the heavy four-mule freight 
wagon was left. At Fort Hall (last American outpost) the 
light wagon must be transformed into a two- wheeled cart; 
at Fort Boise (just erected by the British traders as a 
counter-post to Fort Hall), even the cart must be abandoned 
until it could be brought on by some party unencumbered. 

But the indomitable Doctor Whitman had demonstrated 
his theory. In 1826 Messrs. Smith, Jackson and Sublette 
had taken cattle and wagons to the South Pass; in 1832 
Captain Bonneville had taken his wagon train over the 
South Pass to the Green; now in 1836 women, wagon, and 
cattle had been taken to the Snake, and the next time they 
would be taken by Whitman to the coast. 

The Columbia at Walla Walla was reached September i, 
and the good agent Pambrun received Mrs. Spalding in his 
arms "as if he had been her father." On November 12 
the bateaux bearing the travelers rounded the point where 
stood Vancouver and Fort George. Flags were waving, 
songs were resounding, and the Hudson Bay dignitaries, 
Governor John McLoughlin and Father James Douglass, 


" with stately courtesy " escorted into the fort the first white 
women over the Oregon Trail. Thus had been performed 
" an undertaking pronounced impossible by every mountain 
man, by George Catlin and the missonary Lee " ; and in 
Oregon the Protestant Church had, by importation of the 
white American family and of American customs, laid 
the foundation of the American commonwealth in the 


THE summer market or rendezvous of 1834 is over. The 
fall beaver -hunt has succeeded thereto, and a numerous 
command of trappers under Jim Bridger, of the firm of 
Fitzpatrick, Sublette & Bridger, are at work in the Black- 
feet country around the sources of the Missouri in Mon- 
tana. On a tributary of the Gallatin, one of the Three 
Forks, signs of trappers above have been discovered by the 
party with which Kit Carson is working ; these signs lead to 
the company of Joseph Gale field captain for Nathaniel 

This Gale company is but one of the strings to Wyeth's 
bow. He has also built Fort Hall, an entrepot for supplies 
and furs ; and having followed the missionary party of the 
Lees, Cyrus Shepard, P. L. Edwards, and proceeded to 
Vancouver, he has met, just arriving, his ship, the May 
Dacre. The planet Saturn still governs the Wyeth horo- 
scope, for the May Dacre has been struck by lightning, 
is three months late, and now the salmon shipping season 
is past! Whereupon, with true Yankee thrift that 
deserved a better reward, the versatile Wyeth has dispatched 
from Vancouver to Fort Hall, on a trading trip by land, 
Skipper Thing, eight mountain men and the crew of thirteen 
Sandwich Islanders. 

The Wyeth luck extends as far as the Wyeth operations ; 
for up among the sources of the Missouri, along the Gal- 
latin Fork, the Joseph Gale company have been saddled by 
never-lightened disaster as by the old Man of the Sea. As 
Joe Meek records : " They had been out a long time. The 



Blackfeet had used them badly. Their guns were out of 
order, their ammunition all but exhausted ; they were desti- 
tute, or nearly so, of traps, blankets, knives, everything. 
They were what the Indian and the mountain man called 
' very poor.' ' Moreover, in the last fracas with the Black- 
feet, several of the whites had been shot, and Richard 
(Dick) Owens had received almost a death wound. 

This was Wyeth fortune. In the morning Kit Carson 
and the other Bridger men left Gale, in order to trap on 
and join the main camp; but they had ascended along the 
river only some two miles, when the foremost pair of trap- 
pers (claimed by Meek to have been Liggitt and himself) 
rode into an ambush of Blackfeet. Then ensued a hot race 
back to the Gale camp, the Blackfeet madly firing and 

From the united camp, of unexpected size, the Indians 
swerved. They fell back and as they went set on fire the 
long grass. The camp was located in a bunch of pines and 
aspens; a strong wind was blowing, and the timber was 
threatened by flames. The detachment of Gale trappers, 
being short of ammunition and of serviceable weapons, 
attended to the horses and the camp equipage, while the 
Bridger detachment attended to the savages. 

Kit Carson says that the fire died out at the edge of the 
copse. Joe Meek says that the pines caught and that the 
men were driven into the open, where they used the bodies 
of dead horses as barricades. At any rate, the battle waged 
fiercely until mid-afternoon, when, having suffered severely, 
and having been warned by scouts that a large body of trap- 
pers were approaching, the Blackfeet, announcing that they 
would fight no more, withdrew. 

The Bridger main company soon arrived all uncon- 
scious that a battle had been waged, for the strong adverse 
wind had carried the sounds in the opposite direction. Cap- 
tain Gale's party, which but for the opportune reinforce- 


ment by Meek, Carson, and the others, would surely have 
been " wiped out " within a day or two, now joined with 
the Bridger company, for protection, and the Wyeth trap- 
ping enterprises in this unfriendly West were practically 
at an end. 

Joseph Gale quit the Wyeth employ this winter, entered 
the employ of the Hudson Bay Company, eventually 
migrated westward to settle on the Tualatin Plains of Ore- 
gon, and meeting an emergency, became skipper of the first 
Oregon-built ship the schooner Star of Oregon, which, in 
September, 1842, with a retired mountain man as captain 
and green ranchers as crew, sailed from the port of Van- 
couver for the port of San Francisco which was safely 

Carson's story states that the Bridger command was 
driven out of the Missouri side of the mountains this fall 
by the persistent harassing of the Blackfeet, and that all 
the Bridger men, like the Wyeth men, had to make discre- 
tion the better part of valor and cross to the western slope 
and the Flathead Lake of northwestern Montana, there to 
meet some Flatheads and to winter with them further south, 
on the Big Snake. 

It well may be this spring of 1835, when, as his biography 
says, emerging from winter quarters, Carson fell in with 
Thomas McKay of the Hudson Bay Company, and with 
five associates joined him in a spring hunt ; for the moun- 
tain business among the American companies was being 
badly cut up. The McKay venture proffered success, and 
it proffered new country: the country of the Great Basin 
west of Salt Lake. 

Consequently Thomas McKay was an agreeable leader 
for Kit Carson, and association with him was not to be 
despised. The Snake, between Walla Walla and Fort Hall, 
evidently was McKay's province, for it was hereabouts, in 
the summer of 1834, that the overland party of the Lees 


encamped with the McKay company, and even preached to 

With five other Americans Kit Carson now joined the 
McKay command for an expedition down the Mary's River 
of northwestern Nevada, which was separated from the 
Snake country on the north by a wide divide of bare, bris- 
tling ridges, and by plateaus of sage, sand, and lava falling 
away into deep dry canons. It is a region well-nigh impas- 
sable by man; and by what trail they traveled we do not 

Eighteen months previous the detachment under Joe 
Walker, from the Bonneville brigade, upon their accidental 
way to California had descended along this river, known as 
Mary's and as Ogden's, and today as the Humboldt River, 
to which they applied the name Barren. Since that fall 
of 1833 no expedition is recorded as having trapped the 
stream, and McKay evidently expected to reap a harvest, 
as Peter Ogden had before. But the traps were set in vain. 

Down along the Mary's River, which, with its rocky, 
sterile ridges, its grateful bottoms, its mingling of heat and 
cold, of springs, alkali ponds, sandy bluffs and grassy camp- 
ing spots, for two hundred miles was soon to be a feature 
of the Overland Trail already platted by the stars, traveled 
the McKay and Carson party, clear to the Sinks of the 
Humboldt. Here, in the midst of a desert desolation char- 
acterized by flats of soda and ash, burnt-rock outcrops, stag- 
nation of earth, air, water, and animate life a region as 
appalling as the surface of the moon the Mary's ceased 
at a swampy lake with no outlet. The water, scummy and 
green, and speckled with wild fowl, was sucked up by the 
dry air faster than it could gather to overflow. This was 
the Sink of the Humboldt. 

According to his biographer, Charles Burdett, Carson 
here was sent ahead by McKay toward the ranges which 
showed bluish in the west, to be gone a few days to see if 


there were not, somewhere, beaver streams. 58 He found 
a lake of potash, with pumice stone floating upon it; he 
found more sinks and deposits of soda almost underfoot 
were the gold and silver which since have made western 
Nevada famous, but he passed careless glances over their 
resting place; he found dried lakes, like saucers, rimmed 
with low ridges, pulverized mud and ashes for their bot- 
toms ; he found many a wonder but no beaver. And he 
returned to McKay. 

Then upon this country of ruin they turned their backs 
and, partially retracing their outward course, they made for 
the Snake again. 

Sage and sand and barrenness encompassed them until, 
as they threaded among the lonely hills, they occasionally 
came upon little valleys which flowing water had made 
green. When they struck the Snake in southern Idaho, 
midway between its source above Fort Hall and its mouth 
at the Columbia afar, the party divided. Partisan McKay 
turned west down the Snake, making for the Hudson Bay 
Company post of Fort Walla Walla in southeastern Wash- 
ington; Carson, as captain of the five remaining men, set 
out in the opposite direction, up the Snake, for Fort Hall. 

As McKay was to have the better country, where game 
and grass were available, he took only a small portion of 
the provisions and the majority of the horses. 

The provisions left were poor enough roots and a little 
rabbit meat and the horses left were poor indeed, sad, 
hard-worked, famished things which the desert had used 
cruelly. Kit Carson and men may have had a bad time of 
it in the Great Basin, but now they were to have a worse. 
They saw no game, and as their fare grew scantier they 
saw no Indians from whom they might obtain succor. It 
was a region deserted, with scenery sublime, but caring 
naught for man. 

When Fort Hall was still four or five days' journey east- 


ward their roots had given out. They had but the one 
resort left, which trappers had used before; they cut veins 
in their mules and horses, and, drinking the warm blood, 
closed the veins again. However, they could not repeat this 
operation. The mules and horses were too thin and weak. 

A debate arose whether or not to kill some of the animals 
and eat them, bony as they were. But without animals, 
how could the party proceed, supposing the route continued 
rough? To kill the animals might put the party in worse 
plight than ever. 

At this crisis they encountered a band of friendly 
Indians (probably Snakes), and by dint of much dickering 
and persuasion obtained from them a " fat horse " which 
immediately was killed and devoured. This provender 
lasted during the march on to Fort Hall. 

While Carson and his five companions pause to recuper- 
ate, let us also pause an instant at old Fort Hall when it 
was new, for it deserves more than merest mention. Situ- 
ated " upon the left bank of Snake River, or Lewis' Fork 
of the Columbia, in a rich bottom near the delta formed 
by the confluence of the Portneuf with that stream, in lat. 
43 IO ' 3" north, long. 112 20' 54" west," it reflected 
much credit upon Wyeth's judgment. It was built of the 
customary palings or palisades, with a sally-port or double 
gateway facing the Portneuf, the walls " extending back 
toward the Snake." In 1836 it was transferred by Wyeth 
to the Hudson Bay Company, and now having become, as 
the British eastern-most outpost, " the stone in the garden " 
of the American traders, under agent Captain Grant, it was 
for more than fourteen years a Hudson Bay Company 
quarters. The wooden walls were replaced by adobe, which, 
whitewashed, gleamed as a welcome signal to wayfarers 
amidst the sagy deserts of the rushing Snake. After the 
hospitable Mr. Grant retired to settle with his half -Indian 
family upon a fertile bottom land five miles above his 



(Courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society) 


(From a daguerreotype taken about 
1846, presented by Bridger's daugh- 
ter to General Grenmlle M. Dodge) 


(Courtesy of the Oregon Historical 




(Report of the March of the Rifle Regiment to Oregon, 1849) 

(From Fremont's report of his first expedition) 


former post, the old fort still remained a favorite station 
for emigrants over the Oregon Trail, but it was superseded 
by the new government post of the same name. Later a 
third Fort Hall grew up, dominating the Bannock Indian 

Here, at the palisaded first Fort Hall, occupied by the 
Wyeth garrison hopeful of trade with the Snakes and the 
Utes, but bothered much by pilfering bands of invading 
Crows, Blackfeet, and Sioux, the Carson party of six rested, 
until, making an excursion after buffalo, they invited fur- 
ther adventure. 

This occurred in the valley of the Little Snake, near to 
the dividing line between northwestern Colorado and cen- 
tral Wyoming and not far southeast from the spot where, 
in 1841, the veteran Fraeb forted and was killed. The 
locality is definitely fixed by Fremont's journal of his return 
from his second tour (1843-44). He says: "We passed 
during the day a place where Carson had been fired on so 
close that one of the men had five bullets through his body/' 
But Carson tells his own story: 

It was in let me see yes, 1835. There were six of us 
hunters out after buffalo, up in the Snake country. We had 
made a pretty good hunt, and came into camp at night, intend- 
ing to start in next morning. (Back to Fort Hall, west almost 
three hundred miles!) Well, we camped. Had a good many 
dogs with us, some of them good dogs. They barked a good 
deal, and we heard wolves. As I lay by the fire, I saw one or 
two big wolves sneaking about camp one of them quite in 
it. Gordon wanted to fire, but I would not let him, for fear 
of hitting some of the dogs. I had just a little suspicion, 
that the wolves might be Indians, but when I saw them turn 
short about, and heard the snap of their teeth, as the dogs 
came too close to one of 'em, I felt easy then, and made sure 
it was a wolf. The Indian fooled me that time. Confound 
the rascal, becoming animated confound the rascal, you 
think he hadn't two old buffalo bones in his hand that he 
cracked together every time he turned to snap at the dogs? 


Well, by and by we dozed off asleep, and it was n't long before 
I was awoke by a crash and blaze. I jumped straight for the 
mules, and held 'em. If the Indians had been smart, they 'd 
'a had us all, but they run as soon as they fired. They killed 
but one of us poor Davis. He had five bullets in his body, 
and eight in his buffalo-robe. The Indians were a band of 
Sioux, on the war path after the Snakes, and came on us by 
accident. They tried to waylay us next morning, but we killed 
three of 'em, including their chief. 59 

Now supplied with meat, the five trappers pitched their 
lodge just outside the walls of Fort Hall, and waited for 
McKay to return from Walla Walla. The Wyeth ill luck 
which attended Fort Hall communicated itself evidently to 
everyone connected with it under his proprietorship. As a 
new American post it was treated with small respect by the 
roving tribes who made their forays into this district. It is 
safe to say that under the Hudson Bay Company manage- 
ment it commanded a different attitude. 

Two or three nights after the Carson squad had come in 
from the buffalo hunt and had encamped beside the fort, 
Indians (said to have been Blackfeet, who bore the brunt 
of general blame) boldly entered the post corral and led 
away every animal that the trappers had placed therein for 
security. This was done at daybreak ; the sentinel stationed 
over the cavvy saw two figures approach and let down the 
bars; and so deliberately was it done that he assumed the 
customary relief was taking the cavvy out to graze. Where- 
upon he turned in and went to sleep. 

When the horse guard actually did arrive to relieve the 
sentry, they were amazed to find the corral empty. Investi- 
gation showed that the animals had been driven by the two 
thieves to the main party of Indians, and then trailed across 
country at a rapid rate. Inasmuch as not a horse or mule 
was left at the post, pursuit was fruitless. 

However, McKay came in, after a month, and brought 


with him enough extra saddle animals so that Carson and 
his four comrades could ride on to the rendezvous of the 
summer of 1835 in the Valley of the Green. Here there 
arrived, under escort of Thomas Fitzpatrick, from Fort 
John, the two missionaries Samuel Parker and Marcus 
Whitman. And at this rendezvous occurred Kit Carson's 
celebrated duel with a Canadian mountain man called Cap- 
tain Shunan, or Shuman, or Shunar, who had thrashed two 
men with his fists and was boasting that he would " cut a 
stick and switch " any American who interfered. Various 
modern accounts of it have appeared all based upon the 
one heroic recital in Peters. But as Reverend Mr. Parker 
was present, and is a candid, if not an overglowing narrator 
of the wild West as he saw it, we will let him tell, in his 
didactic fashion, the incident: 

A few days after our arrival at the place of rendezvous, and 
when all the mountain-men had assembled, another day of 
indulgence was granted to them, in which all restraint was 
laid aside. These days are the climax of the hunter's happi- 
ness. I will relate an occurrence which took place, near eve- 
ning, as a specimen of mountain life. A hunter, who goes tech- 
nically by the name of the great bully of the mountains, 
mounted his horse with a loaded rifle, and challenged any 
Frenchman, American, Spaniard, or Dutchman, to fight him 
in single combat. Kit Carson, an American, told him if he 
wished to die, he would accept the challenge. Shunar defied 
him. C. mounted his horse, and with a loaded pistol, rushed 
into close contact, and both almost at the same instant fired. 
Cs. ball entered S's. hand, came out at the wrist, and passed 
through the arm above the elbow. Shunar's ball passed over 
the head of Carson ; and while he went for another pistol, 
Shunar begged that his life might be spared. 60 

The Peters' biography makes Carson, after a sounding 
speech, seek his lodge for a weapon, while Shunan likewise 
sought his. Both men appear mounted and armed in the 
lists ; and when their horses' heads touch, Carson demands : 


" Am I the person you are looking for? " 

" No," answers Shunan, at the same moment raising his 
rifle. Carson instantly fires, shattering his opponent's fore- 
arm, causing the rifle muzzle to tilt so that the discharge 
grazes his scalp and powder-burns his face. 

Shunan, or Shunar, evidently was one of those large, 
braggart bravos the " cock of the woods " when in his 
cups ; a character calculated to overawe a camp and convince 
it that it were best to let him alone. Kit Carson was exactly 
the person to undertake him, and in tackling the job acted 
precisely as would be expected. 

However, a motive beyond merely the offensiveness 
implied by Mr. Parker and by other chroniclers must be 
assigned to the quarrel; and a well-based story from Car- 
son's own lips in fact told by him to Captain S. H. Simp- 
son of Taos, declares that the ill feeling culminated over a 
young squaw, desired by both men. Carson won out, and, 
to judge from his own story, killed his opponent. 61 

When the rendezvous broke up, August 20, Bridger, with 
the missionaries and fifty trappers, including Carson, the 
Flatheads, and Nez Perces, headed north for the upper 
Snake or the Tetons, from whose base and the western base 
of the Wind River Range flow the waters of the Henry 
and the Lewis Forks. 

The march was begun on August 2 1 ; on the 22d Dr. 
Whitman turned east to recross South Pass and recruit the 
missionary ranks for the next year. On the 23d, which 
was Sunday, in Jackson's Little Hole, the Reverend Mr. 
Parker's impromptu church services were interrupted by a 
buffalo hunt. On August 25 Jackson's Big Hole was 
reached, and Captain Bridger detached a portion of his 
command to trap the streams. 

The trail, ever seeking the beaver, crossed the Teton Pass 
and descended into Pierre's Hole, westward, where had 
been fought, three years before, the big trapper-Black feet 


battle. Here the Bridger command diverged for the north- 
east and the Three Forks country of the Black feet, and Mr. 
Parker proceeded west, with his Nez Perce and Flathead 
escort, for the lower Columbia. 

The Black feet were very active this fall and winter. The 
Bridger camps were constantly harassed, so that " a white 
man could not leave his camp and go a distance of a single 
mile without being fired upon." Consequently the company 
dropped down to the Yellowstone, where they went into 
the winter quarters of 1835-1836. 


THE winter upon the Yellowstone was to be far from a 
peaceful one for the Bridger camp, with which was 
Kit Carson. In this January (1836) a hunting party from 
the camp crossed a large Black feet trail, and as signs of 
alien Indians in winter could mean only a war party, it was 
necessary, before the camp could rest easily again, that the 
country be cleared. Forty trappers, including Carson ( who, 
now at twenty-six, must have been among the best of the 
mountain men), were dispatched upon the trail. 

Trailing hard and fast, through snow and cold, the Kit 
Carson company Americans, French Canadians, Mex- 
ican Spaniards, Germans, half-breeds, motley in nationality 
and motley in garb, but one in their hatred of the Black feet 
overtook the Blackfeet scouts, who fled. As had been 
expected, the scouts raced for the main body, so that soon 
the charging whites found themselves stoutly opposed by a 
fierce array as stubborn as ever. 

Joe Meek's account of a similar battle (which may or 
may not have been the same) says that the trappers discov- 
ered the Blackfeet forted upon an island in the Yellowstone, 
and each man screening himself by a little mesh of twigs 
and grass, they were enabled to creep up unobserved and 
deliver a destructive fire from the banks above. But the 
Carson account says that after a sharp fight the Blackfeet 
retreated to this island and forted. 

Night fell and a truce was necessary. The trappers 
camped as best they might in the cold and darkness, and 
waited, to renew at dawn the attack; for in these wildcat 



fights between Blackfeet and mountain men the cry was, 
" Give 'em Green River," the cry of extermination and 
scalps. At dawn the whites charged again, and, hoarsely 
shouting, crossed upon the ice or even waded when the 
current intervened. But the fort was deserted. Only 
" the snow within the fortification was red with fresh 
blood, and from the place a bloody trail led to a hole in the 
ice of the stream, where a large number of lifeless bodies 
had been sunk." 62 

The victorious but disappointed trappers returned to the 
Bridger camp. A council was held at once. It was folly 
to presume that the Blackfeet would accept such a drubbing 
and not retaliate. The location of the camp had been spied 
upon; the Blackfeet would gather again. Bridger decided 
not to vacate, but to stick it out and act upon the defensive. 
Outposts were stationed, and throughout the day a sentinel 
sat upon a high hill, near by, to watch over the surround- 
ing country. Meanwhile the camp was being fortified as 
rapidly as possible, but before preparations were completed 
the sentry on the hill signaled that the Indians were in 
sight. More packs and logs and rocks were piled to 
strengthen the barricade, the horse and mule herd was 
brought in and corralled, arms were grasped and prim- 
ing freshened. 

The advance party of the savages soon appeared in sight, but 
then they discovered the strength of the trappers, they halted 
and awaited, distant about half a mile from the breast-work, 
the arrival of the rest of the band. It was three days before 
the whole force of the Indians had arrived. They mustered 
about one thousand warriors. [Joe Meek says eleven hundred.] 
It was a sight which few white men of the American nation 
have looked upon. Arrayed in their fantastic war costume 
and bedaubed with paint, armed with lances, bows and arrows, 
rifles, tomahawks, knives, etc., some mounted and some on 
foot, they presented a wild and fearful scene of barbaric 
strength and fancy. 63 


When the full force had assembled a great war dance 
was performed, further to intimidate the whites and nerve 
the warriors. The tumult continued probably through the 
night (according to Indian custom) ; and with the morning 
the Blackfeet, worked up to a high pitch, charged. 

But as might have been expected, faced by the breast- 
works and by the ready rifles, they split. Before they 
reached the danger zone they wheeled and retired. The 
Indians of the West never have had the stomach to assault 
breastworks ; each individual Indian thinks of his own scalp. 

The trappers jeered and yelled, taunting the Blackfeet to 
come within range. Carson says that the enemy presently 
withdrew about a mile and sat in council. This dissolved, 
the reds divided into two bands, one marching on into the 
Crow country, the other taking the back trail. Joe Meek 
says that they, too, forted, throwing up small cottonwood 
enclosures for ten men each, from which a skirmishing fight 
was carried on, with small loss to either side, for two days ; 
after which the Blackfeet quit. 

The trappers' camp was not molested again during the 
winter. The spring hunt was pursued in the Crow country 
of the Yellowstone and the Big Horn, in the Wind River 
Valley, and thence across to the Lewis Fork and down to 
the rendezvous near the mouth of Horse Creek in the Val- 
ley of the Green. 

At the Green River, preceding the rendezvous of 1836, 
occurred the tragedy whereby Joe Meek's wife, Umen- 
tucken, a Snake young woman transferred from Milton 
Sublette, closed her days. A band of Bannocks, assuming 
that the whites had stolen their horses, dashed into camp 
and caught the trappers unprepared. 

Bridger stood in front of his lodge, holding his horse by a 
lasso, and the head chief rode over it, jerking it out of his 
hand. At this unprecedented insult to his master, a negro 


named Jim, cook to the Booshway, seized a rifle and shot the 
chief dead. At the same time, an arrow shot at random struck 
Umentucken in the breast, and the joys and sorrows of the 
Mountain Lamb were over forevermore. 64 

The mountain men now rallied, chased the Bannocks, 
drove them from their village to an island in the Green, 
and so well avenged Umentucken that finally an old Ban- 
nock squaw approached, bearing the pipe of peace. 

" You have killed all our warriors," she said ; " do you 
now want to kill the women? If you wish to smoke with 
women, I have the pipe/' 

This convinced the trappers that they had done their 
duty, and they drew off. It also had convinced the Ban- 
nocks that the white race were fighters of a new breed ; and 
coming as a first experience, changed a bold nation into a 
race of bushwhackers as vicious as the Diggers. 

Following the fight with the presumptuous Bannocks, the 
rendezvous time being at hand, Andrew Drips, the Ameri- 
can Fur Company partisan, took half a dozen or so of men 
and rode eastward to meet the caravan from St. Louis. On 
the Sandy (the Big Sandy and the Little Sandy creeks are 
two famous streams encountered on the west slope of South 
Pass, and long famed as the overland traveler's introduc- 
tion to the Pacific slope) they noted signs of Indians. 
Meek and Carson, with that habitual caution which twelve 
years later moved Lieutenant G. D. Brewerton to remark 
upon it, at the next camp retained the saddles upon their 
horses and tied the picket rope to themselves. When, just 
before dawn, the apprehended attack was made, all the 
horses save those of Meek and Carson were stampeded. 
But these two wily mountain men were enabled to flee at 
full speed, not to be rejoined by others of the party until 
the Sweetwater, across the pass, was reached. 

The majority on foot, the party proceeded as far east as 
Independence Rock, when another attack turned them back. 


Strange to relate, the whole party finally rendezvoused again 
on the Green, not a man having been killed or (which was 
the same thing) captured. 

Into this rendezvous entered, with spectacular escort, the 
two white women, Mrs. Spalding and Mrs. Whitman, and 
the other missionaries, Messrs. Spalding, Whitman, and 
Gray. At this rendezvous also it would be learned that Cap- 
tain Bonneville, the erstwhile trader and explorer, had been 
gone a year from the mountains; that Nathaniel Wyeth, 
the plucky, had failed in every venture, and that he, too, 
was practically out of the mountain business, his salmon 
shipments having amounted to naught and his Fort Hall 
having been opposed by the new Hudson Bay post of Fort 
Boise, lower down on the Snake. And doubtless the St. 
Louis caravan brought out news from Texas, where Ameri- 
cans were fighting for new American territory as important 
as Oregon. 

This fall of 1836 the firm of Fitzpatrick, Sublette & 
Bridger seems to have ceased entirely, and all the former 
Rocky Mountain Fur Company personages, save William 
Sublette, who was still in the field, supported the American 
Fur Company against the British aggression. Fort Boise 
was a menace and Wyeth's Fort Hall was another. From 
now on for twenty years the only American fur concern 
of importance in the western trade is that great corporation, 
" the Company " : the American Fur Company, sometimes 
referred to as the " Company of North America," as arro- 
gant, east of the mountains, as ever the Hudson Bay Com- 
pany west of the mountains, and much more despotic over 
its employees. 

From the rendezvous the missionaries departed with the 
British party of trader McLeod, westward for the Colum- 
bia; Bridger and Fontenelle (the Rocky Mountain Company 
and the American Company united, like the lying down 
together of the wolf and the lamb) led a large brigade north, 


and divided. The Bridger party proceeded to the head- 
waters of the Snake, and into Pierre's Hole; Fontenelle, 
with one hundred men, among them Carson, trapped in the 
Yellowstone country. There were rumors among the Crows 
that the Blackfeet had been swept by a scourge of smallpox 
and were in full retreat from it. The trappers, who had 
many old scores to settle with this tribe, accepted the plague 
as a gift of providence, and extended their operations the 
more freely. 

That winter the united bands of Bridger and Fontenelle 
went into camp among the Crows of the Yellowstone. The 
season was severe. 

Fuel, however, was abundant, and excepting the inconven- 
ience of keeping unusually large fires, they suffered but little. 
Not so with the animals. It was with the greatest difficulty 
that they preserved them from starvation. * * * The 
intense cold operated to bring upon them another serious 
annoyance, in the shape of immense herds of starving buffalo, 
which, goaded on by the pangs of hunger, would watch for an 
opportunity to gore the animals and steal their scanty allow- 
ance of provender. It was only by building large fires in the 
valleys and constantly standing guard that the trappers suc- 
ceeded in keeping them off. 65 

But if the winter was severe, the mountain men and 
Indians alike appear to have made merry, for, according to 
Joe Meek " perhaps there never was a winter camp in the 
mountains more thoroughly demoralized than this, espe- 
cially during the months of January and February." 

Fontenelle and four men and the party of Captain Stuart 
(who was still on deck and in the thick of mountain life) set 
off in midwinter for the Laramie (Fort John) ; and here, 
soon after arrival in January, Fontenelle killed himself 
while, it is claimed, in his cups. 

When spring opened two of the trappers were sent to 
the fort on the Laramie for supplies, and never were heard 


from at either terminus of the route; and in March the 
beaver trail was taken for the sources of the Missouri in 
the presumably desolated country of the Blackfeet. 

About this, the most dangerous of regions, the mountain 
men seem to have hovered with the persistency of a boy 
haunting a forbidden apple orchard. It was, of course, an 
excellent beaver district, but there were other beaver dis- 
tricts as prolific, and much less venomous. 

The route was northwest from the Powder River 
headwaters in northern Wyoming, across the Big Horn 
mountains and the rivers of the Big Horn, Clarke's and the 
Rosebud (a wild, austere country) to the upper Yellow- 
stone. That not all the Blackfeet were yet dead was proven 
when near the Yellowstone the Bridger advance struck a 
Blackfeet village and another brisk fight occurred. 

The march continued , northwest across Twenty- 
five Yard River to the Three Forks of the Missouri. 
The Bridger camp had been three hundred strong and 
although it must have been lessened during the march, as 
details dropped off to trap, it proceeded defiantly into the 
Blackfeet territory. An advance guard of forty or fifty 
men \vere sent forward to follow a broad Blackfeet trail; 
evidently that of a village fleeing from the plague, for the 
trail was strewn with the disfigured corpses of smallpox 

The stricken village noted the pursuit and posted one 
hundred and fifty warriors to cover its retreat. The point 
chosen was a narrow valley or bottom, hedged by high, 
rocky bluffs. But if an ambush had been projected the 
wily mountain men were too acute; and several of them, 
leaving their horses, climbed around and above, and sur- 
prising the reds, poured in a sudden fire. 

For a time it was give and take, with the Blackfeet heroic- 
ally enduring their losses and acting upon the defensive 
until the village might escape. After three hours of battle 


the trappers' ammunition began to run low; and apprised 
by the slackening fire, the desperate reds suddenly turned 
like a striking snake, carrying the fight to the trappers. 

The voice of Kit Carson and of other recognized leaders 
rallied the whites, bidding them stand fast. The rifles were 
emptied and as on the Blackfeet came the pistols were 
brought into deadly use. Back rolled the feathered, painted 
tide, only to swell again and again. So hot was the con- 
test among the rocks that sometimes a single boulder sep- 
arated opponent and opponent, each striving to reach the 

The reserves from the trapper camp, on the march behind, 
now arrived with reinforcement of men and ammunition. 
But the Blackfeet, running amuck and mad with the lust 
of the fight, declined to loosen their desperate clutch on 
victory and revenge. The trappers having mounted, the 
battle was renewed with added fury. 

Several of the incidents have been preserved to this day. 
Doc Newell, dismounting to scalp an Indian presumed to 
be dead, resuscitated the corpse by the prick of his knife, 
and, his fingers caught among the gun screws with which 
the savage's topknot was adorned, he well nigh never got 
free alive. Joe Meek, unconsciously posing while turned 
in his saddle, was made by J. M. Stanley, the mountain days 
artist, who was present at the time, the subject of a cele- 
brated canvas, " The Trapper's Last Shot." A Blackfeet 
woman's horse was killed, but evading capture she seized 
the tail of her husband's horse and at full speed was dragged 
from danger. 

Mansfield, trapper, was pinioned under his own horse in 
the thick of the fray, as he was passing a point of rocks. 
Six Blackfeet dashed afoot for him, to count a coup and 
take his scalp. But at his despairing cry : " Tell old Gabe 
[Bridger] that old Cotton [his own sobriquet] is gone," 
Carson, who had noted, sprang from his saddle and stood 


over him. He shot the foremost warrior dead ; other moun- 
tain men turned their weapons the same way, and only two 
of the Black feet reached cover. Cotton managed to wriggle 
from beneath his horse and make for safety. Kit Carson's 
horse, however, during the hurly-burly had bolted, leaving 
him exposed in the open. But he vaulted behind a comrade 
and was borne away. His mount was caught and restored 
to him. 

The battle resumed more furiously than ever. Although 
confronted by the reinforcements, the Blackfeet yielded not 
an inch. The trappers, as usual in such contests, were the 
better armed, and at last plied so with rifle ball and pistol 
ball that the Blackfeet commenced to waver. By ones and 
twos and threes they scurried backward to save their lives, 
until, on a sudden, the rout became general ; the first trickle 
waxed into a torrent, and down the hill slope, through the 
valley and away, the defeated Indians fled. 

The trappers did not pursue. They let well enough alone ; 
and camping upon the battle field, buried their three 
dead, attended to their several wounded, and rested. 

The rendezvous of the summer of 1837 was held in the 
Wind River Valley, in present Wyoming, east of the Conti- 
nental Divide and north of South Pass. Here arrived, 
upon his way from Oregon to the Atlantic coast, the mis- 
sionary William H. Gray, who, the previous year, had 
appeared with Reverend and Mrs. Spalding and Doctor and 
Mrs. Whitman at the rendezvous in the Valley of the 

Mr. Gray, accompanied by two white men, three Flat- 
heads (one of whom was an educated chief, The Hat), an 
Iroquois and a Snake, and nothing daunted by the strenu- 
ous journey of the year before, was re-traveling the Oregon 
Trail, on mission and personal business. Disregarding 
warnings that his escort was insufficient, as a man of God 
he proceeded eastward, only upon the plains of the lower 


Platte to be spied by the prowling Sioux. To the Sioux 
anything from the west of the mountains was fair prey. 

The three Flatheads and the Iroquois and Snake fought 
bravely, killing fifteen of the Sioux. In the parley promoted 
by a French-Canadian trader among the Sioux, Mr. Gray 
was promised his life and the life of his two white com- 
panions, if the five Indians and their " fine horses " were 
delivered over. That this compromise was effected, who 
can believe? But the five Indians were slain, the three 
whites passed through to the frontier, and ever after the 
Flathead tribe accused Mr. Gray of cowardly double-dealing, 
and among the mountain men he was a byword. The fact 
that he was twice wounded, and while on horseback in the 
river was grazed along the top of the head by another ball, 
shows how dire were his straits. In this world Mr. Gray 
cannot be judged. However, a Protestant mission never 
was established amidst the Flatheads, who first had incited 
the crusade. 66 

Wyeth's Fort Hall had been sold, this summer of 1837, 
to the British. Under the new proprietors it engaged some 
of the American trappers, but Fort Davy Crockett, in 
Brown's Hole, Colorado, on an elbow of the Green, cour- 
teously managed by the mountain men William Craig, Philip 
Thompson, and Sinclair (St. Clair), was the fashionable 
American gathering place. Thither, after the rendezvous 
of this summer, journeyed Kit Carson and seven others. 

Thompson and Sinclair were organizing a trading trip 
south into the Navajo country of present New Mexico, and 
Carson joined them. This was a trip not after furs, but 
after horses and mules, and the Navajo merchandise of hair 
ropes and blankets. The latter article especially was valued, 
as it is valued today. Substantial, warm, waterproof, of 
pleasant pattern, the Navajo blanket early appealed to the 
Mexican and the traveler over the Santa Fe Trail, was made 
popular by the American soldiers of the days of '46 (who 


discovered it in Santa Fe), and has maintained itself as 
a Navajo asset ever since. 

Out of the Navajo country, with its peach orchards and 
ranging flocks, the traders proceeded to Bent's Fort on the 
Arkansas, where the spoils, principally mules, were sold for 
the Missouri market. 

This winter of 1837-38 Kit Carson spent in Brown's 
Hole as hunter for Fort Davy Crockett. It is evident that 
the beaver trail was losing its fascination for him ; that the 
beaver trade was on the wane. Indeed, back as far as the 
summer of 1832 the astute Astor, while in London, had 
noted the advent of the silk hat, and in a letter had recorded 
a fear that beaver fur must soon yield to the cocoon, the 
trap to the loom. 

It is impossible to assert whither Kit Carson made his 
fur hunt of the spring of 1838. We have choice of the 
Black Hills (which in those days extended to the Laramie), 
of the Snake, of the Grand River in Colorado. Operating 
as an independent trapper, he took his furs to the Robidoux 
post, Fort Uintah. " But the prices at which he was obliged 
to sell them did not at all please him." Trapper talk 
trended to the decision that the beaver business was irrevo- 
cably on the decline, and probably with his previous visits to 
Bent's Fort in mind, Carson, accompanied by his wife and 
child, by old Bill Williams, William New, William Mitchell 
and one Fredericks, a Frenchman, all disgusted with the 
mountain profits, set out for the lower country and Bent's 
Fort on the plains. 


FOR several reasons it seems safe to make the summer 
of 1838 the dividing line between Kit Carson's youth 
in the mountains and his maturity upon the plains. He 
leaves the hills to emerge not only into a wider horizon of 
nature, but into a wider horizon of life, and to take a more 
active part in general western affairs. 

All biographies of Kit Carson assign to him eight con- 
secutive years as resident hunter at Bent's Fort. By 
sequence of summers and winters these biographies also 
represent him as occupied in the mountains until the sum- 
mer of 1840. The problem in addition, to this point, is 
simple ; we have but to add adventure to adventure, rendez- 
vous to rendezvous, winter camp to winter camp ; but when 
to the sum we must add eight years as hunter, and yet 
send him with Fremont in 1842, and again in 1843-44, and 
again to California and the conquest, in 1845-6, the task 
requires more than mathematical ingenuity. 

We know that he fought upon the side of Joseph Gale, 
the Wyeth man, in the fall of 1834 in the Blackfeet country; 
that in the spring of 1835 he had his adventure with the 
wolf-imitating Sioux, at the Colorado- Wyoming line; that 
his duel with Bully Shunan occurred at the rendezvous of 
1835; that in the winter of 1836 he was with Bridger, and 
in the summer of 1836 was at rendezvous; that he spent 
two winters at Fort Davy Crockett (one winter as hunter), 
whereas Fort Davy Crockett did not exist until 1836 or 
1837; that Captain James Hobbs claims to have met him in 
the summer of 1837, trading with a small party on the 



plains of southern Colorado. Meek says Carson was at 
Crockett in the winter of 1839-40; and he himself says to 
Colonel Meline, in speaking of Father DeSmet : " I 
remember he came once among the hunters and trappers 
up in the mountains, and baptized forty-odd children." But 
Father DeSmet did not enter the mountain missionary 
work until 1840. 

It is very likely that Kit Carson's adventures were more 
compressed than he recalls. The accepted chronology is 
obviously wrong in some of its dates discrepancies only 
to be expected, and of course pardonable. But we must 
accept also that his huntership for Bent's Fort would not 
deprive him of excursions between seasons into the moun- 
tains ; and that while hunter he very well could have figured 
in various mountain incidents, in camp and at rendezvous. 

Oliver Wiggins again is authority for the statement that 
to supply meat for Bent's Fort required only two big buffalo 
hunts a year ; and that to those the Carson company bent all 
its energies of the moment. And inasmuch as Carson 
resided at Taos in 1838, I am inclined to the opinion that 
this huntership at the post comprised four years, 1838-1842, 
of two seasons each, rather than eight straight years from 
1834 on. 67 

Before continuing with Kit Carson in his translation from 
beaver hunter to accredited guide, before bridging the short 
interval between the acts, while the scenes are shifted from 
the beaver trail setting to the setting of the explorer, we 
may as well say a few last words of the trapper generally. 
For the withdrawal of Kit Carson from the exclusive pur- 
suit of mountain fur hunting was portentous of a change 
in epochs. 

As has been said, John Jacob Astor in 1832 prophesied 
that the silk hat spelled the doom of the beaver trade. In 
1834 Silliman's Journal, without reference to silk, spoke 
as darkly. 


It appears that the fur trade must henceforth decline. The 
advanced state of geographical science shows that no new coun- 
tries remain to be explored. In North America, the animals 
are slowly decreasing, from the persevering efforts and the 
indiscriminate slaughter practised by hunters, and by the appro- 
priation to the uses of man of those forests and rivers which 
have afforded them food and protection. They recede with 
the aborigines, before the tide of civilization ; but a diminished 
supply will remain in the mountains and uncultivated tracts 
of this and other countries, if the avidity of the hunter can be 
restrained within proper limitations. 

Two hundred thousand skins a year were exported from 
the western plains and mountains to the markets of 
Europe ; 68 no effort was made at conservation any more 
than at conserving the buffalo, later. When the silk hat 
began to outrival all but the very finest beaver hat, the 
market for the poorer pelts dropped with a thud, and an 
ordinary second-grade skin brought only a dollar. When 
beaver fur was found satisfactory for other uses than in 
hats, suddenly the animal had become scarce ; and although 
for a squaw-dressed pelt Oliver Wiggins and partners, in 
1840 and onward through half a dozen years, obtained 
eight dollars at St. Joe, except in favored localities trap- 
ping was "apt to fetch slim bags. 

So rapidly did the beaver business in the mountains 
decline, giving place to the buffalo robe trade of the plains, 
that at St. Vrain's fort on the South Platte, close to the 
Colorado foothills, in the summer of 1843, Fremont 
remarks : 

It is singular that, immediately at the foot of the mountains, 
I could find no one sufficiently acquainted with them to guide 
us to the plains at their western base ; but the race of trappers 
who formerly lived in their recesses had almost entirely dis- 
appeared dwindled to a few scattered individuals some 
one or two of whom are regularly killed in the course of each 
year by the Indians. 6 9 


In the combination which produced the decline of the 
beaver business in the mountains there was another element : 
the dissolution of the Rocky Mountain Company and the 
supremacy of the American Company. The American Fur 
Company was not, to use a cow-puncher expression, 
" wised " to mountain methods and mountain tribes ; the 
upper Missouri River and the river trails of the plains were 
its field, posts and not rendezvous were its system for barter ; 
badly organized, the mountain fur business after 1836 rap- 
idly disintegrated. 

The rendezvous of the American Fur Company of 1838 
was held by Bridger, the partisan, and Drips, the trader, 
with supplies from St. Louis (or, more likely, from Fort 
Union) not in the Valley of the Green, but on the head 
waters of the Yellowstone, within easy reach of pack train 
from the upper Missouri. 

The English captain, Sir William Drummond Stuart, was 
again at rendezvous ; and, more important, there were pres- 
ent new missionaries, coming, apparently, by a more north- 
ern route than that of the Snake and the South Pass. And 
among them were white women, emulating the pioneer- 
ing two years before by Narcissa Whitman and Eliza 

Protestant missionary work in Oregon was approaching 
full tide. Now Reverend Jason Lee and Mr. P. L. Edwards, 
who had led the march in 1834, with two Chinook boys 
Christianized under the simple names of William Brooks 
and Thomas Adams were hastening back to the East, for 
the purpose of further arousing the Missionary Board to 
the call of Oregon. This party met at the rendezvous their 
fellow worker, Reverend William Gray, returning with his 
bride, Mary Augusta Dix Gray (wooed and won in a court- 
ship of an evening), aged twenty-seven, of Ithaca, New 
York; Reverend Cushing Eells, aged twenty-eight, of 
Blandford, Mass., and his bride, Myra Fairbanks Eells, 


aged thirty-two, of Holden, Mass. ; Reverend Asa B. Smith, 
aged twenty-nine, of Williamstown, Mass., and his bride, 
Sarah White Smith, aged twenty- four, of West Brookfield, 
Mass.; Reverend Elkanah Walker, aged thirty-two, of 
North Yarmouth, Maine, and his bride, Mary Richardson 
Walker, aged twenty-seven, of Baldwin, Maine; and a lay 
missionary, Cornelius Rogers, aged twenty-two, of Cincin- 
nati "a fine young man," who in less than five years was 
to find a death amidst the swollen winter waters of the 
Willamette. 70 

But the time had come when the Roman Catholic mis- 
sionary, so tardy in arrival here, although so early else- 
where, was to bear his banner across from east to west. 
The accessions to the Protestant missions of 1838 are not 
the only ones. The Hudson Bay brigade of 1838 brings 
out to the Columbia Reverend Francis N. Blanch et, newly 
appointed Vicar General of the Oregon Catholic Missions 
(and soon to be first Catholic Bishop of Oregon) and 
his assistant, Reverend Modeste Demers. 

On November 24 the two priests arrived at Vancouver, 
where " the populace rushed to feast their eyes on the first 
Catholic missionaries, whose presence they had so long 
expected. In the absence of Dr. McLoughlin, James Doug- 
lass received them and saw them well housed and fed." 

These two Jesuits, Father Blanchet and Father Demers, 
had the lower Columbia for their field, with Vancouver as 
their occasional meeting place. They were reinforced in 
1840 by the great and good Father Peter J. DeSmet, also 
of the Society of Jesus. He was from St. Louis ; they were 
from Montreal. They were French; he was Belgian. 
They worked among chiefly the Hudson Bay employees and 
the Cayuses of the Vancouver and Willamette regions; his 
work was among the Flatheads, who had sent in the call 
eight years ago. And it is mainly the name DeSmet that 
spells the best history of Roman Catholicism in pioneer 


Oregon, for he was a broad and noble character a second 

From St. Louis in the spring of 1840 Father DeSmet 
traveled to Fort Hall; thence he turned north, over the 
mountains for the Bitter Root country of the Flatheads, 
across the present Montana line, whither the Protestant 
missionaries of 1834 had gazed, but from which they had 
been deflected. During his first visit of two months, in the 
spring and summer of 1840, he baptized 600 persons and 
taught the prayers of the Catholic church to 2,000. The 
following year he commenced the erection there of a mission 
establishment, the nucleus of other Catholic missions, first 
among the Coeur d' Alenes, and later among the Black feet 

The rendezvous of 1839 was ^ e ^ near Bonneville's old 
fort, Fort Nonsense, on the Horse Creek tributary of the 
Green, in the Valley of the Green. From the rendezvous 
of 1839 the disgruntled and disheartened mountain men, 
scattered to the four winds, but not necessarily to the four 
winds of the beaver trail. " Some went to Santa Fe, some 
to California, others to the lower Columbia, and a few 
remained in the mountains, trapping, and selling their furs 
to the Hudson Bay Company at Fort Hall." The American 
Fur Company posts drew many; and there was Oregon. 
Thither, in 1840 and on, trailed squads of the mountain 

" Come," said Newell to Meek, " we are done with this life in 
the mountains done with wading in beaver dams, and freez- 
ing or starving alternately done with Indian trading and 
Indian fighting. The fur trade is dead in the Rocky Moun- 
tains, and it is no place for us now, if ever it was. We are 
young yet, and have life before us. We cannot waste it here ; 
we cannot or will not return to the States. Let us go down to 
the Willamet and take farms." 71 

So, one after another, traders, guides, ranchers, Indian 


agents, prospectors, squaw-men, nondescripts they became 
some sinking, others rising, and many unable, the rest of 
their lives, to adjust themselves to the new conditions of 
earning a living. 

A surprising proportion of these retired mountain men 
were young. Joe Meek was twenty-eight, Jim Bridger was 
thirty-eight, Robert Newell was not thirty, Joe Walker was 
forty-two, Kit Carson was twenty-eight. And now to 
Bent's Fort were his footsteps turned. 


T^HE Northwest is assured. But now, while in the East 
* Reverend Jason Lee, assisted by the two Indian boys, 
is lecturing from Missouri to the Atlantic coast, while rein- 
forcements of artisans, farmers, money, and " young ladies " 
are being hastened by land and by sea to this farthest fron- 
tier where they " have everything to do, and little to do 
with " ; while the first territorial petition is in Congress and 
Oregon's newest legislative champion, Senator Lewis Fields 
Linn, of Missouri, is declaiming the cause of secular occupa- 
tion; while the mountain men, deprived of rendezvous and 
supply train, are reluctantly wending their way, with squaws 
and children, to the Willamette; and while at Dubuque, 
Iowa, inspired by the Welsh civil engineer, John Plumbe, 
a convention has been held, March 31, 1837, to promote 
a transcontinental railroad, Kit Carson, at Bent's Fort on 
the plains and at Taos, New Mexico, is by no means removed 
from the flutter of the onward reaching flag. 

Down here in the Southwest, however, the voice of colo- 
nization has not yet been sounded. The Oregon Trail 
invited the settler; the Santa Fe Trail invited the mer- 
chant. Now in 1838 (and for many a year to come) 
still slowly roll the great Conestogas upon their long way 
across prairie and desert; wagons are used exclusively 
and oxen have to a large extent supplanted the mules 
of the boy Kit Carson days. Old Franklin is old indeed, 
threatened by the river and abandoned by many inhabitants. 
Independence, up river toward the mouth of the Kaw, is 
the terminal point for both caravan and mountain train, 



(Sketches by Lieut. J. W. Abert) 



(Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society) 


but Westport Landing, a few miles above, is the steamboat 
terminal, and the adjacent Westport town is also bidding 
for business and inviting a future Kansas City. Civilization 
is ever edging farther into the Indian country. 

The Indian frontier has been definitely established by 
Congress; and across it, in present Oklahoma, Kansas, and 
Nebraska, are located the tribes from the east of the Mis- 
sissippi, to dwell forever and naturally, and guaranteed 
against invasion by the whites. For this purpose only was 
the country between the States and the mountains pro- 
nounced to be adapted. 

In Texas the decisive battle of San Jacinto (April 21, 
1836) has been fought, and the paean has welled to the 
patriotic chorus: 

For this we are determined, to die or to be free, 

And TEXAS TRIUMPHANT our watchword shall be! 

And of the new republic of Texas, extending from the 
Sabine to the Rio Grande, General Sam Houston is presi- 
dent. Full a year had passed since, August 4, 1837, the 
new republic had applied for annexation with the larger and 
older republic and had been refused; but the arguments 
on both sides bid fair to end in reconsideration. 

Near Independence has appeared that new sect, the 
Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, on that 
westward movement so fraught with national import. From 
Independence on to Far West do these strange " Mor- 
mons " continue; there to lay, in this summer of 1838, the 
corner stone of a Zion Temple. But Missouri declines 
them ; from Illinois they will be driven forth, and thus they 
are led to break the Mormon Trail to Salt Lake, and to 
California; and Utah is colonized. 

In the northwest, Oregon, and in the southwest, Texas, 
are ready at a touch to burst into full citizenship. Forth- 


reaching right and left, the United States will harvest them 
almost simultaneously. And straight in front, beyond the 
West, California is being prepared as another segment in 
the mighty circle. 

Colonel Jose Maria Echeandia that " man of scholas- 
tic bent and training and Castilian lisp," so suspicious of 
the gringo American has retired from his governorship; 
Kit Carson had not yet arrived back in Taos, from that 
trip under Ewing Young, when to Echeandia had suc- 
ceeded the mestizo or Indian-Mexican breed, Lieutenant 
Colonel Manuel Victoria, and to Victoria had succeeded 
Brigadier General Jose Figueroa, " of Aztec blood, hence 
swarthy in color." And to Figueroa succeeded others 
a long line vexed by revolts in which already the gringo 
American bore customary part. 

Isaac Graham, the Tennessean, mountain man with the 
Captain Sinclair party from Arkansas up the Green in 
1831, and at the battle of Pierre's Hole in 1832, has in 1836 
supported the native Calif ornian revolt for the cause of 
Juan Bautista Alvarado, with the result that, following the 
example of Texas, Alta California, on November 6, pro- 
claimed itself independent of Mexico. Not yet, of course, 
has the Bear Flag been designed; but the Latin unrest is 
further agitated by the ferment of the American adventurer, 
and, a factor of tremendous importance, in 1838 there trav- 
ersed the Oregon Trail to the Pacific coast Johann August 
Sutter, to establish himself at New Helvetia on the Sacra- 
mento, and by the lodestone of the gold in his mill race to 
draw from the very ends of the earth a new citizenship. 

From the originating point of Missouri, the lines of inter- 
est lead to Texas, Oregon, California; and in the midst 
of the fan-shaped field, caught, as it were, in the web, 
where the plains are about to meet the foothills of the 
Rockies, is Kit Carson at Bent's Fort. 

Bent's Fort (to which had been vainly assigned the title 


Fort William), was built in 1829, and was therefore ten 
years old when Kit Carson, out of the mountains, became 
its official hunter. Its founders were five St. Louis traders, 
Charles Bent, William Bent, George Bent, and Ceran St. 
Vrain, whose brother Marcelin also was associated with 
him. 72 

The site of Bent's Fort was upon the north bank of 
the Arkansas (consequently in American territory) below 
the present town of La Junta, Colorado, and about fourteen 
miles above the mouth of the Rio Purgatoire, that stream 
whose name, anglicized into Purgatory, was further reduced 
to the Americanism of " Picketwire." It is also known as 
the Rio Las Animas or Rio de las Animas Perdidas (River 
of the Lost Souls), but it is thereby confounded with 
another Rio Las Animas, in the opposite southwestern cor- 
ner of Colorado. One hundred and thirty miles west from 
the fort were the mountains. Thither, up the Arkansas, ran 
a trappers' and traders' trail, for the Fontaine qui Bouille 
and the South Park and beyond ; north from the fort ran a 
trail to the Bent and St. Vrain posts on the Platte, and to 
Fort Laramie, 380 miles ; south, over the Raton Mountains 
ran the trail to Taos, two hundred miles, and to Santa Fe ; 
while from the east came in the mountain division, the 
oldest route, of the Santa Fe Trail, from Missouri, 530 
miles. Thus at the crossroads of the plains wilderness was 
stationed old Bent's Fort its dun ramparts a stronghold 
and a hospice in one. 73 

It stood alone, with " its high clay walls in the midst 
of the scorching plains." A home more isolated did not 
exist in North America. The lodge of the mountain man 
had the companionship of the mighty hills, but except for 
a few low bluffs and a scattering of cotton woods and wil- 
lows, the post of Fort William was the sole eminence for 
miles about. Fort Laramie was on a trail where passed and 
repassed not only the fur trade caravans, and many a trader 


and trapper, but also travelers, missionaries, and prospective 
settlers, a stream constantly increasing and bringing the 
States to the fortress gate. Bent's was on its own trail, 
until in 1846 " the wild and lonely banks of the upper 
Arkansas beheld for the first time the passage of an army " ; 
it was the center of a kingdom of its making, and as a 
nucleus of white supremacy beyond the frontier can be com- 
pared only with Pierre, Union, and early Fort George of 
Vancouver. But even the upper Missouri was more fre- 
quented than the upper Arkansas. 

To be sure, in the summer of 1835, swinging out of Fort 
Leavenworth on a wide circle up the South Platte to the 
mountains and thence south, the dragoons of Colonel Henry 
Dodge, guided by Trader Captain Gant, had stopped on 
their return for a few August days. This was the only 
exploration of the plains, by the military of the United 
States, until i846. 74 To be sure, five miles above the post 
was the heterogeneous assortment of retired trappers and 
traders, white and Mexican breeds, and of variously com- 
plexioned squaws and children, composing the community 
of the " puebla " Fort el Puebla. But Bent's Fort asked 
neither military aid nor neighbors. With its walls, cannon 
and employees, it was self -sufficient. 

Old Bent's Fort, Fort Bent, or Fort William, was located 
about sixty yards from the brink of the Arkansas, and 
amidst a patch of grassy bottom land. The walls, of large 
adobe bricks after the fashion of the West, were eighteen 
feet in height, and six or seven feet thick at the base, taper- 
ing off to two feet at the top. They formed a rectangle, 
running north and south, 150 feet by 100 feet. At the 
northwest and southeast corners they intersected in the 
axes of twin towers, or bastions, thirty feet high and ten 
feet in diameter, which, swelling out, permitted the defend- 
ers to rake the outside of the walls with gun fire. 

The main entrance was a thirty- foot gateway in the east 


wall, looking downstream, or along the Missouri Trail, and 
closed by a pair of immense plank doors. Over the gate was 
a sentry box, floating the Flag. A six-pounder brass cannon 
and several smaller ordnance were mounted upon the walls, 
commanding the court within and the approaches without. 

The post had a hide press, for pressing robes and furs 
into bales. This stood in the center of the court. In the 
cupola of the headquarters building was a " fine spyglass," 
and a billiard table hauled clear from Independence. Among 
the clerks and even among the trappers were men who could 
handle a cue; and when, during the war with Mexico, 
United States troops occupied the post as a way station, 
the table was in much demand among the army officers. In 
the kitchen presided Charlotte, the negress cook, famed for 
her pumpkin pies! 

The situation might seem forlorn and monotonous for the 
inmates. The rolling, treeless plains of the cattle-range 
West surrounded them; in summer these lay brown and 
parched, swept by blasting winds as undiminished in force 
as if coming across an ocean ; and reflected from the white- 
washed walls and the hard clay of the post's court, the sun 
fairly blistered all objects exposed. In the winter, the 
snow, and the bare patches, with the short grass that barely 
concealed the ground, made the fort a cheerless place. 

The post was most advantageously situated for both the 
Indian and the Mexican trade. The Cheyennes and Arapa- 
hos annually held a winter camp in the Big Timbers, a 
stretch of huge cottonwoods thirty-two miles below and 
extending twenty-four miles along the river; and in the 
spring and fall they followed the buffalo back and forth 
across the Arkansas, with the end in view of marketing their 
robes at the post. The Red River Comanches, and the Utes 
likewise, engaged in the summer and winter trading. It is 
related that in the fall sometimes as high as 20,000 Indians 
were assembled in the neighborhood of the post. As the 


post was upon the mountain route between the States and 
Santa Fe, it was a candidate for the Mexican trade also. 

The principal trade with the Indians was in buffalo robes, 
although of course trappers brought in beaver; and good 
business was carried on in horses and mules for the Mis- 
souri market. The organization of the post was strict, like 
the organization of the American Fur Company and the 
Hudson Bay Company posts. Being immune to fire from 
without, the place, if rightly guarded, need fear no assault. 

Bent's Fort w r as owned and conducted by the St. Louis 
trading firm, Bent, St. Vrain & Co., whose trade brand 
was "Quarter-Circle B" [)-B]. They instituted other 
posts, to make a chain; the principal one being Fort St. 
Vrain or Fort George, north from Bent's Fort, built for 
the Arapaho, northern Cheyenne, and Sioux trade, and 
situated on the plains in north central Colorado where, 
southwest of the present town of Greeley, the St. Vrain 
Creek empties into the South Platte. This post was a 
halfway station between Bent's Fort and Fort Laramie, 
and was, in its last days, the northern terminal of the first 
pony express route of the plains, which carried mail and 
packages from St. Vrain to Taos, and handed down to the 
emigrant the Cherokee Trail of the fifties. 

Fort St. Vrain (whose title of Fort George probably 
refers to George Bent, brother of William Bent) was estab- 
lished about 1837; and ten years thereafter, or in 1848, 
on the Canadian River in northwestern Texas the firm estab- 
lished the post of Adobe Walls, for trade with the Kiowas, 
Comanches, and Prairie Apaches. Here, at Thanksgiving 
time, 1864, Kit Carson engaged in the greatest Indian fight 
of his career. 

When the pilgrimage of the Forty-niners to California 
set in, old Bent's Fort was a station on the Arkansas River, 
Cherokee Trail, and Cherry Creek (the future Denver) 
route. Colonel Bent, who by this time was the sole pro- 


prietor, wanted to sell his post to the government. He 
asked for the property $16,000; $12,000 was offered; and 
in the summer of 1852, tired of the dickering, in a fit of 
wrath he 

loaded all the goods he could get on his wagons, sixteen in 
number, set fire to his premises, and pulled out. A consider- 
able quantity of powder remained in the fort, and, as the train 
wound its way down the river, the ascending flames accom- 
panied by a succession of loud reports told how effectually 
the fortress was being converted into a ruin. Thus the Arkan- 
sas Valley was again devoid of human habitation. 75 

The rifted battlements of the historic post persisted as 
landmarks for over a quarter of a century. The next year, 
or in May, 1853, when Edward F. Beale (late lieutenant, 
United States Navy, hero with Carson, and now appointed 
Indian Agent for California) and his companion, Gwinn 
Harris Heap, passed by, for the coast, they 

rode all through the ruins, which present a strange appear- 
ance in these solitudes. A few years ago this post was fre- 
quented by numerous trappers and Indians, and at times 
exhibited a scene of wild confusion. It is now roofless; for 
when the United States refused to purchase it, the proprietor 
set it on fire to prevent its becoming a harbor for Indians. 
The adobe walls are still standing, and are in many places of 
great thickness. They are covered with written messages from 
parties [i. e., emigrants] who had already passed here, to 
their friends in the rear. 76 

Colonel Bent journeyed down river thirty miles, and at 
the Big Timbers erected a few log cabins as a winter trad- 
ing post for the Indians who were accustomed to gather 
here. Lieutenant E. J. Beckwith, outward bound in this 
spring of 1853, for one of the Pacific Railroad surveys, 
notes them as being then abandoned. But here at the Big 
Timbers Colonel Bent followed the log cabins with a sub- 


stantial stone post almost as pretentious as old Fort Wil- 
liam above; and this, in 1859, the Government did pur- 
chase. Remodeled, it became Fort Wise of the army, old 
Fort Lyon of the settlers as differentiated from the new 
Fort Lyon of later date, twenty-five miles upriver, or back 
toward the original Bent's Fort. It was at this new Fort 
Lyon Kit Carson died, in 1868; and near by died, aged 
sixty, still true to the old trail, William Bent. 77 


KIT CARSON did not settle down as merely hunter for 
Bent's Fort. It probably is true that he had the con- 
tract to supply the fort with meat. But that he operated 
from Taos, and not from the post, we know by corrobora- 
tive testimony of a contemporary, Oliver P. Wiggins. 

In the mid- fall of this year 1838, a Santa Fe caravan of 
fifty-two wagons commanded by Captain Blunt left Inde- 
pendence, Missouri, for the New Mexican market. It hap- 
pened that after a short period of truce the Kiowas were 
again about to break forth as they had the habit of 
doing every three years and the Blunt caravan was 
warned, while on its way, by travelers from the West. 

The Kiowas were the fiercest fighters of the southwest 
plains ; not even the Comanches and Apaches were so much 
dreaded, and even the Pawnees did not outrank those 
painted horsemen with the truly Indian name. 

At the crossing of the Arkansas, in southern Kansas, the 
much-alarmed train was met by Kit Carson, leading a com- 
pany of bearded trappers from Taos; and right glad was 
the caravan to see the reinforcement, for many of the team- 
sters were greenhorns, and poorly armed. At the rear, driv- 
ing the cavvy, there jogged along on a humble mule a run- 
away boy of fifteen, who, accoutered with a stained juve- 
nile dragoon suit of blue, and a pistol " as large as the palm 
of my hand," was out " to hunt Injuns " ! This was Oliver 
P. Wiggins, for twelve years to be Kit Carson's subaltern 
and close friend. 

The Kiowa territory was beyond. After two days' travel, 



when the danger zone was reached, on the third morning 
the raw teamsters were amazed to witness the vaunted 
mountain men tie their horses to the rear of the wagons, 
and pile in, a pair to a wagon, under the canopy tops. 
This occasioned grumbling and not a few sneers from the 
Missourians, whose remarks, however, were treated with 
silent contempt. 

But scarcely had the train got under way, when from over 
the sandhills to the north, down poured the whooping 
Kiowas ; riding hard, brandishing lance and bow and shield, 
shouting and shooting their fruitless arrows. But if they 
thought that they had to deal only with the teamsters 
who foolishly emptied their guns in reply they were much 
mistaken. Undeterred by the confused parking of the cara- 
van they lunged on until suddenly from the slightly rolled 
edges of the wagon tops poked forth the long heavy barrels 
pf the trappers' rifles, and the poised muzzles spat their hot 
lead. The volley was as deadly as unexpected. Back reeled 
the remnant of the reds, scurrying, screeching, for those 
sandhills whence they had so valiantly emerged ; and after 
them raced the trappers, shooting. 

The caravan was almost at the Taos Trail the forking 
of the Santa Fe Trail, at the Cimarron in New Mexico. 
That evening, in the twilight, Ike Chamberlain, the Kit 
Carson lieutenant, approached Oliver, and said: 

" Boy, 'stead o' goin' on to Santy Fee, how 'd you like 
to travel 'long to Touse with us ? " 

How would he like it ! The ragged urchin whom every- 
one had appeared to overlook, Kit Carson, with that kind- 
liness toward youth which was one of his best attributes, 
had noticed. Before ever he had reached Independence 
the boy had heard of Kit Carson, and had dreamed of 
meeting him. 

" All right," continued Chamberlain, interpreting his 
look of joy. " We take the Touse Trail in the mornin.' 


There '11 be no more Injuns. 1 11 see Kit again, and if 
he says for you to come we '11 light a fire, after dark where 
we 're campin'. When it flares up, you '11 know." 

Thus Oliver Wiggins accompanied the Carson company 
to Taos. By this he lost his wages, for the wagon master 
refused to pay him except at the end of the trail, Santa Fe ; 
but the wages cut little figure compared with the chance 
offered and boy Oliver was never sorry. For twelve 
years he was a " Carson man." 78 

Taos was reached early in December. Here Kit Carson, 
twenty-nine years old, had home and headquarters, and 
operated with a company of forty-five trappers. His assist- 
ants were Ike Chamberlain and Solomon Silver. Most of 
the men were Kentuckians. Usually half the company 
were out at a time, under Chamberlain or Silver, after 
beaver. Strangely enough, the names of these two lieuten- 
ants do not appear in mountain and plains history. 79 

Twice a year, in the spring and fall, the whole party went 
on a great buffalo hunt, to fulfill Carson's contract with 
Bent's Fort. Between times there were the beaver, the 
horse herd, and the Indians. 

Carson was the best trapper among all the men, good 
though they were. The fur trail extended clear to the 
Wisdom River, north of the Three Forks source of the 
Missouri. The Blackfeet had quieted, and the Wisdom was 
found to be virgin ground. At one place the two- foot chan- 
nel had been dammed and expanded into a shallow pond 
ten miles wide; from this great collection of lodges the 
Carson party took 3,000 beaver, which Blackfeet squaws 
dressed, their payment being the carcasses and an occasional 
pinch of sugar. Another time, in Colorado's South Park, 
by cutting a dam the Carson trappers drained a beaver pond 
and, wading into the muck, at one attack killed eighty 
beaver with clubs. 

The pelts were regularly sent down from the camps, by 


the Missouri or the Platte trails, to St. Joe the former 
Blacksnake Hills where Louis Robidoux, the trader, 
handled them. Of the proceeds Carson took ten per cent; 
the remainder went to the employees the year's division 
not infrequently amounting to a thousand dollars apiece 
for the trappers. 

Carson, as may easily be comprehended, even after his 
so-termed retirement from the mountains covered a wide 
extent of territory, in trapping and hunting trips. Amidst 
all he was a captain, operating independently by means 
of his employees or by himself. Moreover, working from 
Taos, or from Bent's Fort ( for Bent, St. Vrain & Co. must 
protect their trains) he seems to have been the guardian of 
the trail. The incident of the Blunt caravan in the fall 
of 1838 has been told. Another similar incident, of 1841, 
may be related. 

One sunrise that fall there arrived in Taos an excited 
group of riders, with the news that about seventy miles 
east, on the Santa Fe Trail, a caravan had been held a 
day and a night by Indians and was in peril of extermina- 
tion. At the time Carson was suffering from a pistol wound 
in the right leg ; his pistol had fallen and had discharged ; the 
ball passed upward, diagonally, through the calf, and he 
was in bad shape for six months. This injury is mentioned 
in no biographies, and probably was only a passing incident 
of frontier life. 

But Ike Chamberlain, now aged twenty-six, was on hand, 
and Carson ordered him to get the men out and take the 
trail in twenty minutes. However, a slight delay was neces- 
sary (at which Carson, with his characteristic impatience of 
unreadiness, chafed), to permit some of the men to run 
bullets. As quickly as possible twenty-five or thirty men 
took the trail. 

Oliver Wiggins, eighteen, and the youngest, accompanied 
the party, for he had been promoted to man's work, and had 


just been rewarded, by Carson's own new percussion-cap 
rifle, for a recent exploit in which he had summarily dis- 
posed of a Kiowa band and recovered stolen stock. 

The rescue horsemen from Taos rode all that day, and 
reached the beleaguered caravan about two in the morn- 
ing. They managed to pass through the savages, and found 
the caravan with its oxen almost dead from hunger and 
thirst. Now followed a stratagem similar to that of Novem- 
ber, 1838. The Carson men distributed themselves among 
the wagons, to await the Indian charge. At daybreak, 
down swooped the reds to be lured on by a feeble round 
of a few muskets and pistols. But when they were well 
inside point-blank range, the whites delivered the first vol- 
ley; nevertheless, still the charge continued, for to the 
Indian mind the defenders now had only empty guns. 

Abruptly and disastrously the galloping warriors were 
made acquainted with an evolution in firearms. The Kit 
Carson company, according to Oliver Wiggins, was main- 
tained in the highest state of efficiency ; the revolving pistol 
had lately been adopted ; and springing from cover to the 
backs of their animals, the trappers met the Indian charge 
with a countercharge, shooting right and left without 
reloading. Saddle pads were emptied, the Indians broke 
and fled, with that accusation which has become historic: 
" White man shoot one time with rifle and six times with 
butcher knife!" 

These Indians were Kiowas, with a few Comanches, the 
tribes more or less intermingling. More than a hundred 
were killed, while the whites lost only one man. 

" Ah, what fighters we were, in those days ! " sighed 
old Oliver Wiggins, at eighty-seven, his faded eyes kindling. 
" Nobody could lick the Carson men ! They might kill us, 
but they could n't whip us ! " While the triumphant Taos 
whites are riding back to report to their disabled captain, 
let us note what a change had been made in the civilizing 


weapons of the West. The percussion cap had been 
invented, cartridges for breech-loading had been experi- 
mented with, and the famous Colonel Samuel Colt had 
brought to comparative perfection his revolver. 

The rifle which Oliver Wiggins wielded in this affray was 
the first percussion-cap rifle owned in Taos, and had been 
bought of the makers, Golcher & Butler of Philadelphia, 
by Kit Carson in 1840 for $60 gold. According to Oliver 
Wiggins, Carson was alert and his men were alert to secure 
the most advanced ideas in offensive and defensive weapons ; 
and so his party in the fight of 1841, to rescue the wagon 
train, were armed with the new revolving pistols of 
Samuel Colt. 

Kit Carson is now settled in Taos, and here and at Bent's 
Fort is sleeping continuously under a roof for the first 
period in a dozen years. Taos was his home; Bent's Fort 
but an adjunct. At Taos he had his horses and mule stock; 
hence, on occasion, he dispatched his punitive expeditions 
along the Santa Fe Trail; and here he outfitted his men 
with saddles, when needed for his short apprenticeship 
under David Workman stood him in good stead. We may 
regard him as a rising young citizen, engineering various 
pursuits engendered by the advantages of his location; a 
young citizen among other citizens such as Charles Bent, 
Ceran St. Vrain, Carlos Beaubien, the Padre Martinez, 
editor and publisher of the first and only newspaper in New 
Mexico (its life being limited to one month), Lucien Max- 
well, Basil Lajeunesse, and others, traders, plainsmen, and 
mountain men; merchants, traders, trappers; of recognized 
profession or of less definite status, but forming a select 
society. For Taos was not without the best blood of the 
West, and as custom-place of the New Mexican northern 
border was a settlement second only, if at all, to Santa Fe. 

As has been related, in the summer of 1835 Carson fought 
a duel with Bully Shunan, at the Green River rendezvous, 

TAGS IX 1853 

(From a sketch by Lieut. Col. Eaton. From Davis' s El Gringo; or 
New Mexico and her People) 



(Photograph by the author) 



(Photograph by F. J. Francis) 



(From Vol. II, Pacific Railroad Reports. A Stanley picture) 


and the cause of war is said to have been a woman. This 
girl, an Arapaho, Carson married (with the customary 
accepted rites of Indian and trapper), and very likely it was 
she whom, as his " Alice," he brought out with him upon his 
later trips to Bent's Fort and the plains. At any rate, his 
only Indian wife of whom we have knowledge died soon 
after presenting him with a daughter, in 1837 or 1838. 

I am unable to find definite record of this Indian wife as 
resident in Taos. Oliver Wiggins, who was the only person 
living, so far as I know, with memory going back to Carson 
days in Taos of 1838, said that he had no clear recollection 
of the Indian woman; but he recalled well the little girl, 
and he recalled also her mother's being dead. It may be 
that in her young wifehood " Alice," the Arapaho girl, was 
at Bent's Fort and at Taos; but it is assured that before 
1840 she had passed away; and that little Adaline was about 
four years old when, in the spring of 1842, her father 
decided upon removing her from the uncertain influences 
to which she was exposed, and taking her to Missouri. 

That he was fond of her is very evident. But in all 
my correspondence with those persons now living who 
knew Kit Carson, only two or three can recall that he men- 
tioned his wife Alice, and none recall that he mentioned his 
little daughter. Naturally a reticent man, in his later 
years, and even after his second marriage, which soon 
occurred, he would not speak of his Indian marriage, for 
fear of being misjudged. But at Taos during his widower- 
hood he declared that he would be glad to have for his 
second wife " Alice's sister," who, also, " was a good girl." 
Few traits in Kit Carson so appeal as -his honor for the 
Indian wife who " always had the warm water ready for 
his feet," and who bore him his first child. 

This little girl was named, we may accept, for the Adaline 
Carson who was born to William Carson, the elder brother, 
in 1810 and but a few weeks after Kit's own birth in 1809, 


and was Kit's first niece, and a favorite chum. The second 
Adaline (Adeline) was, as Oliver Wiggins stated, a dark, 
elfish child (for the Indian blood always dominates, in 
mixed offspring, over the white), and it may easily be 
realized that with the father away much of the time, and 
the population of Taos and of Bent's Fort so extraordinary 
in its mingling of races, her bringing up was a problem. 
And in this episode we see another evidence of Kit Carson's 
intrinsic sound sense and innate progressive ideas : that for 
his little daughter, mountain half-breed though she was, 
he desired a better atmosphere and a better chance. 

It was quite practicable to take her to Santa Fe and to 
put her into convent training; this was done by the major- 
ity of the leading families of Taos, Mora, and elsewhere. 

However, he seems to have had other views, and in the 
spring of 1842 she accompanied him from Bent's Fort back 
to Independence. Report says that he found few persons 
at Franklin who remembered him, and that the majority 
of his home people had vanished utterly. But, amidst the 
changes of sixteen years of a new country, he did find 
relatives; for if the Carson kin were wanderers, they were 
also numerous. Among these relatives was a niece, Mrs. 
Leander Amick, whose mother had been Kit Carson's sister 
Elizabeth, wife to Robert Cooper of Howard County's first 

Mrs. L. P. Slaughter of Kansas City, daughter of Mr. 
and Mrs. Amick, writes: 

When I was a child, Kit Carson's daughter Adeline, the 
daughter by his finst wife, lived for several years with my 
parents on a farm between Fayette and Glasgow, in Howard 
county, in this State. There and in a St. Louis convent school 
she received her education. As my mother refused to accept 
any money for caring for his daughter, he purchased many 
presents for her, among which was a mahogany rocking- 
chair which I have still. 


In a letter to the author, Mrs. Slaughter writes further 

My sister, if now living, would be 74 years old, and was 
about the same age of Adeline Carson, Kit's daughter. She 
stayed with us until about eleven years old. She attended a 
school named Rock Springs school which was about nine miles 
from Fayette. When Kit took Adeline away from our home he 
said he might leave her in St. Louis in school or he might take 
her with him to California. It is the opinion of most of the 
Howard County pioneers that Adeline died in California and 
not in Missouri. She was dark complexioned, black hair and 
dark eyes. Kit visited her several times while she was with us. 

Mr. George H. Carson, of Fayette (Missouri), whose 
recollections as son of William Carson, Kit Carson's eldest 
brother, have before been drawn upon, in this narrative, 
writes to me: 

In 1848, I think, he (Kit Carson) brought his daughter to 
Fayette and placed her in school. I know she was in school 
here in 1849, f r I spent most of the summer here and often 
saw her, myself. My remembrance is that he took her west 
in the early fifties. She married, died, and is buried at Taos, 
N. M., is family tradition. I know of my own knowledge that 
he took her west. 

This removal to school in Fayette, at the old Howard 
Female Seminary, occurred during Carson's second trip 
east from California, bearing dispatches for Washington. 
Mrs. Slaughter's remembrance, then, that Adaline was 
eleven years of age when she left the Amick home, in con- 
nection with the George Carson recollection of her in 1848 
would place her birth in 1837: a date further substantiated 
by the comparison of Mrs. Slaughter's sister's age, seventy- 
four, in 1911. 

But notwithstanding these various recollections, singu- 
larly if not pathetically little Adaline fades from public 


view. Oliver Wiggins insisted that she died when about 
ten years old, and died in Missouri ; and report does declare 
that she died while attending school at a St. Louis convent. 

Mr. George Carson states that " family tradition " assigns 
her a grave in Taos, but I failed to find trace of her in the 
ancient cemetery there, or in the annals of the place. 

Mrs. Teresina Scheurich, native of Taos, who, aged six, 
after the murder of her father, Governor Charles Bent r 
entered the household of her uncle and aunt, Kit Carson 
and wife, writes the author that Adaline " married an officer 
and went to California, 1851 ( ? ), soon after she was mar- 
ried, and died there two years later." This would tend 
to endorse the report by Captain James Hobbs, in Wild 
Life in the Far West, of a visit by him to Mono Lake, 
California, in 1869. 

I was informed by a gentleman living there by the name of 
Scott that a daughter of Kit Carson was buried near by. At 
my request he pointed out her grave to me, when I employed 
a man to build a fence around it, as a mark of respect to and 
in memory of her father, with whom I had been pleasantly 
acquainted. I remembered seeing this girl often, when she 
was about eight years old. She was a daughter by Kit's 
first wife, who was called the Pine Leaf and was of the Black- 
foot tribe. This girl was called the Prairie Flower, and was 
born at Bent's Fort on the Arkansas River. Her mother died 
when she was ten years of age. The girl then lived in Colonel 
Bent's family till she was sixteen years old, when she married 
a man by the name of George Stilts of St. Louis, Mo., and 
went to California with him in 1849. Stilts was a reckless 
man. * * * After traveling about in California with her 
husband a while she left him, and went to Mono Lake with a 
gentleman and his family, and died there. She was a noble 
looking woman, of mixed complexion, black eyes and long 
black hair, and could excel most men in the use of the rifle. 80 

But of this Adaline's death as a girl, or of her existence 
in young wifehood, we have only fragmentary testimony. 


She seems never to have been mentioned by Carson in his 
Memoirs. However, his early efforts in her behalf were 
rewarded. His trail opened, as he pursued it ; for this trip 
to Missouri resulted in his engagement with Fremont, and 
thus fate met him half way. We cannot assert that Fre- 
mont made Kit Carson. Kit Carson would have made, and 
did make, himself. But he might have lived at Taos until 
the Mexican War, at least, without attracting public atten- 
tion as a valuable man. His name, before 1842, appears 
in few chronicles and in no official reports. 


WHEN, in June, 1842, on the steamboat ascending the 
river Missouri from St. Louis, Christopher Carson, 
the young mountain man out of the West, met Lieutenant 
John Charles Fremont, the young army engineer out of 
the East, opportunity joined their hands. Together they 
entered into fame. 

Both were Southerners : Carson of North Carolinan and 
Kentuckian blood, Fremont born in Georgia but raised in 
South Carolina. Carson was the elder, being then in his 
thirty-third year, whereas Fremont was then twenty-nine. 
Carson was mature beyond his years, and a father; Fre- 
mont was youthfully enthusiastic, and a husband of only 
six months. 

The two men were opposites. Carson was Scotch-Irish ; 
gray-blue eyed, sandy complexioned (under his tan), light- 
haired, rather flat- featured, gritty but so quiet and ordinary 
both in appearance and manner that few not knowing his 
name would bestow upon him more than a passing glance. 
Fremont was French : flashing blue eyes, olive-white com- 
plexion, thick brown hair, features regular and oval, dis- 
position sensitive, quick, eager, and indomitable few 
would forget him. 

Fremont was a scholar, of both American and Continen- 
tal accomplishments; at this time Carson could not read, 
nor write even his own name, and his speech, even in 1866, 
was of patois wherein mingled Mexican, Indian, and many 
a frontier English " thar," " fout," " massacreed," " pore," 
etc. But he spoke in more languages than did Fremont him- 



self ; not only being fluent in " English, French, Spanish, 
and several Indian tongues, all acquired orally," but also 
being well conversant with the sign language of redman 
and of trail. 81 Fremont was a student, poet, and adven- 
turer, which combine in the true explorer, and no one can 
examine his official reports without being struck by the 
painstaking knowledge wrested from an unfamiliar field; 
no one can read his Memoirs without appreciating the deli- 
cacy of expression employed ; and no one can ride his trail 
without being impressed by his whole-souled methods. It 
may be that John Charles Fremont was, as claimed, intol- 
erant, over-ambitious, ill-balanced and, according to 
Oliver Wiggins, headstrong to pursue his own course in 
spite of advice. So far as I can find, he was that kind of a 
man beloved of Westerners, a man who set out to do his 
share of the work, and who, if we except that fourth expe- 
dition, made good in what he undertook. He was a hard 
man to follow, but those who did follow him were pretty 
certain of having their money's worth. He was (as that 
disastrous fourth expedition proved), headstrong: the type 
of headiness which receives from the western veteran the 
growl " fool tenderfoot " and then impels him, body and 
mind, to the rescue, when rescue for such a tenderfoot 
is needed. 

It seems to me that Fremont, the rash, needed Carson, 
the cautious, and that each could estimate and value the 
other, for both were brave. In 1842 began a friendship 
which was maintained, with many mutual expressions of 
goodwill and almost brotherly love, until death. Fremont 
constantly refers, with generous praise, to Kit Carson's 
qualities of heart and body, and receives him as an equal 
into the home. Carson, in his loyal statement for the 
Senate, 1848, declares that " he was under more obligations 
to Fremont than to any other man alive." 

So, in the words of Fremont : 


On the boat I met Kit Carson. He was returning from put- 
ting his little daughter in a convent school at St. Louis. I 
was pleased with him and his manner of address at this first 
meeting. He was a man of medium height, broad-shouldered 
and deep-chested, with a clear steady blue eye and frank speech 
and address ; quiet and unassuming. 

I had expected to engage as guide an old mountaineer, Cap- 
tain Drips, but I was so much pleased with Carson that when 
he asked to go with me I was glad to take him. 

Now, he has become so familiarly known that I will let 
the narrative tell of the life we had together, out of which 
grew our enduring friendship. 82 

Carson engaged at $100 a month. Why he engaged, is 
hard to fathom. He seemed to be doing well at Bent's Fort 
and at Taos. Possibly a certain melancholy attached to 
his late visit amidst his boyhood haunts, where few wel- 
comed him; and having safely bestowed his daughter, he 
was now foot-loose and restless. 

At any rate, Kit Carson promptly swung into the trail 
with which his bridle path had joined; and from the 
Cyprian Chouteau post whence the start was to be made 
dispatched two Delaware " runners " to Taos, with a mes- 
sage instructing about fifteen of his own men to meet him 
at Fort Laramie (Fort John), with equipment. 

The Cyprian Chouteau post was on the right bank of the 
Kansas River, about ten miles above its mouth; and con- 
stituted, as says Fremont, " one of the friendly contribu- 
tions by the St. Louis Chouteaus, which were to come in 
aid on this and future journeys." The American fur com- 
panies realized that the army invasion of plains and moun- 
tains would help trade by diverting the warpath, and we 
find them, large and small, as a rule assisting the govern- 
ment in every way. Colonel Robert Campbell, especially, 
was a most obliging patron of course not without profit 
to himself. 


Of the men connected with this, another government 
scientific and exploring column directed into the western 
wilds, interest remains longest with the leader ; with Carson, 
the guide; Maxwell, the hunter; Basil Lajeunesse, who 
became Fremont's favorite, rivaling Carson ; bristly-headed 
and tow-headed Charles Pruess, the plucky German topog- 
rapher; and the lads, Henry Brant, aged nineteen, son of 
Senator Benton's niece, Sarah Benton Brant (Mrs. J. B. 
Brant) of St. Louis, and Randolph Benton, aged twelve, 
son of Senator Benton himself. The twenty- two or three 
other members of the party were voyageurs, French of 
Canada and Missouri. 

Friday, June 10, witnessed the departure of the column; 
Monday, October 10, exactly four months later, witnessed 
its return to the mouth of the Kansas. 

Technically, this expedition, known as " Fremont's First 
Expedition," was " An Exploration of the Country Lying 
Between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains, on 
the line of the Kansas and Great Platte Rivers." Theoreti- 
cally, it was an exploration to acquaint the Government 
with the nature of the " rivers and country between the 
frontiers of Missouri and the base of the Rocky Moun- 
tains ; and especially to examine the character, and ascertain 
the latitude and longitude of the South Pass, the great cross- 
ing place to these mountains on the way to Oregon." 
Officially it was an expedition " ordered by Colonel Abert, 
chief of the Topographical Bureau, with the sanction of 
the Secretary of War." But actually, while including the 
above scope, it was a Benton-Fremont expedition for the 
political triumph of one, the professional triumph of the 
other, and the encouragement (involved with both designs) 
of the emigration to Oregon. 

The first Linn bill for Oregon occupation, the bill of 
1838, was dead. The Linn bill of the winter of 1842-43 
had not yet been announced, and this expedition was a pre- 


paratory measure. Thus coming events cast their shadows 
before, and deep run the waters of politics. As Fremont 
narrates, in his Memoirs, the object of his exploration was 
" auxiliary and in aid to the emigration to the Lower Colum- 
bia " ; his real commission was to " indicate and describe 
the line of travel, and the best positions for military posts," 
as well as to fix the location of the South Pass. 

Senator Benton, than whom a greater statesman and 
more astute politician never lived, and Lieutenant Fremont, 
than whom a more willing explorer never lived, worked well 
together; for they were united by the ties of profession, 
family and ambition. Senator Benton worked at home, 
Lieutenant Fremont worked in the field, and the results 
justified the mutual confidence. 

As to this expedition, Senator Linn, able colleague of 
the great Benton with the eagle nose, summarized it in his 
presentation to the Senate of the official report. His breath- 
less style carries unseen exclamation points as a press 
agent Dr. Linn scores. The report is to be classed as that 
species of gratuitous reading matter with which newspapers 
and magazines are flooded and which usually have another 
than a purely news motive. 

In executing his instructions, Mr. Fremont proceeded up the 
Kansas River far enough to ascertain its character, and then 
crossed over to the Great Platte, and pursued that river to its 
source in the mountains, where the Sweet Water (a head 
branch of the Platte) issued from the neighborhood of the 
South Pass. He reached the Pass on the 8th of August, and 
describes it as a wide and low depression of the mountains, 
where the ascent is as easy as that of the hill on which this 
Capitol stands, and where a plainly beaten wagon road leads 
to the Oregon through the valley of Lewis's River, a fork 
of the Columbia. He went through the Pass, and saw the 
headwaters of the Colorado, of the Gulf of California; and, 
leaving the valleys to indulge a laudable curiosity, and to 
make some useful observations, and attended by four of his 


men, he climbed the loftiest peak of the Rocky Mountains, 
until then untrodden by any known human being; and, on the 
1 5th of August, looked down upon ice and snow some thousand 
feet below, and traced in the distance the valleys of the rivers 
which, taking their rise in the same elevated ridge, flow in 
opposite directions to the Pacific Ocean and to the Mississippi. 
From that ultimate point he returned by the valley of the 
Great Platte, following the stream in its whole course, and 
solving all questions in relation to its navigability, and the 
character of the country through which it flows. 

However, the first portion of the journey, that from the 
Missouri to Fort Laramie, is not without interest, just as, 
in the matter of speaking well of the character of the val- 
leys, it was not without value. With customary Fremont 
thoroughness the company was divided; the main party, 
under Clement Lambert as chief and Carson as assistant, 
proceeding by the Oregon Trail route up the North Platte, 
while Fremont himself, with four others including Lucien 
Maxwell, continued on up the South Platte to Fort St. 
Vrain, thence to march, northward, for the rendezvous at 
Fort Laramie. 

Previous to this separation the rubber boat, a Fremont 
idea ridiculed later by the Carson men, had capsized in 
crossing the Kansas, and some provisions, the most impor- 
tant being a sack of coffee, were lost. By their aquatic 
efforts at rescue Carson and Maxwell both were made ill. 

The Fremont trail to Fort St. Vrain was uneventful, 
save for spring storms and one or two Indian scares. The 
Lambert-Carson detachment met Jim Bridger convoying 
down the North Platte trail a company of traders, and by 
this company were informed that the Sioux, Gros Ventre 
Blackfeet, and the Cheyennes were combined; that all 
were out for revenge, after the casualties of the battle with 
Fraeb, the trapper partisan, in the preceding August; and 
that the Sweetwater route the route from Laramie to 
South Pass was very hazardous. This spread consterna- 


tion among the in-going company, who paid serious atten- 
tion to the opinion of such a seasoned campaigner as old 
Bridger. So genuine was the gravity of the situation that 
at Fort Laramie Carson made oral will an incident not 
unusual among trappers, but here not calculated to relieve 
the tenseness of the situation. 

At Laramie, and at Fort Platte below, agents and Indians 
all urged upon the expedition to wait at least until the war 
parties which were out, upon the trail beyond, should 
return. However, Fremont was no man to be intimidated. 
Perhaps this was the rashness of a tenderfoot in the moun- 
tains perhaps it was wisdom, foreseeing that to have 
yielded now might have established a precedent among 
the Indians, and have encouraged them to future dictation. 
For a government officer to back down and let the trail 
be closed against him, was poor policy. Besides, this was 
a white trail and a settler trail ; and the lives of countless 
companies to follow, might hang upon decisive action now. 

Anyway, Lieutenant Fremont wavered not an inch, 
opposed though he was by veterans such as Carson and the 
traders of both posts. He informed his company that he 
was going through, and he called the roll, and only one 
member refused. 

As it happened, the trip out to the South Pass and neigh- 
borhood, and back to the post, was made with no direct 
opposition, beyond words, by the Indians; in fact, few 
Indians were sighted on the Sweetwater trail; and the 
chief peril was when, during the return, in the Red Narrows 
of the Platte the rubber boat was wrecked and its crew 
barely escaped drowning. 

To revert to the Linn report, again, in which the scien- 
tific aspects of the journey are reviewed, these being the 
latitudes and longitudes, elevations, character of soils, prac- 
ticability of routes, geological, botanical and meteorolog- 
ical features: 


Eight carts, drawn by two mules each, accompanied the expe- 
dition ; a fact which attests the facility of traveling in this vast 
region. Herds of buffaloes furnished subsistence to the men ; 
a short, nutritious grass, sustained the horses and mules. Two 
boys (one of twelve years of age, the other of eighteen), 
besides the enlisted men, accompanied the expedition, and 
took their share of its hardships; which proves that boys, as 
well as men, are able to traverse the country to the Rocky 

The result of all his observations Mr. Fremont has con- 
densed into a brief report enough to make a document of 
ninety or one hundred pages ; and believing that this document 
would be of general interest to the whole country, and bene- 
ficial to science, as well as useful to the government, I move 
the printing of the extra number which has been named. 

r< The printing was ordered " ; not only accomplishing 
the purpose of encouraging prospective emigrants by the 
" apparent interest which the government * * * took 
in their enterprises," but also (although it does not strike 
me that the Fremont report supports the Linn contention) 
spreading the first truth about the Great American Desert : 
" that the country, for several hundred miles from the 
frontier of Missouri, is exceedingly beautiful and fertile; 
alternate woodland and prairie, and certain portions well 
supplied with water," and that " the valley of the river 
Platte has a very rich soil." Thus the chimera of the Great 
American Desert received its initial puncture albeit per- 
sisting as a bugbear until the ignis fatuus of the gold be- 
yond had been pursued to the end. 

The details of this first expedition of Fremont, by which 
Kit Carson likewise was " drawn into the current of impor- 
tant events," cannot be better told than by Fremont him- 
self, who, a young lieutenant inspired by freshness of 
achievement, backed by authority of his first command and 
by the knowledge that he is making history, produces a 
narrative that reads like a tale of some knight-errant. He 


thoroughly enjoys the venture. He enjoys the spectacle of 
Carson, " without a saddle, and scouring bareheaded over 
the prairies, * * * one of the finest pictures of a 
horseman I have ever seen"; he enjoys the alarms "in 
an instant, every man's weapon was in his hand, the horses 
were driven in, hobbled and picketed, and horsemen were 
galloping at full speed in the direction of the newcomers, 
screaming and yelling in the wildest excitement/' His buf- 
falo hunt is so contagious as to be quoted to this day 
" My horse was a trained hunter, famous in the West under 
the name of Proveau, and, with his eyes flashing, and the 
foam flying from his mouth, sprang on after the cow 
like a tiger! " The atmosphere of the wild plains and of 
the lofty peaks, so vast, so tremendous, so immutable, 
entered into his blood ; as did the deeds which they fostered 
among their inhabitants. High romance and the spectac- 
ular were to John Charles Fremont the wine of life. What 
army officer of later day, what scientific explorer would 
think to embody in a formal report a side allusion such 
as this which follows a description of an Arapaho and 
Cheyenne village : 

I remarked near some of the ledges a kind of tripod frame, 
formed of three slender poles of birch, scraped very clean, 
to which were affixed the shield and spear, with some other 
weapons. All were scrupulously clean, the spear head was 
burnished bright, and the shield white and stainless. It 
reminded me of the days of feudal chivalry; and when, as I 
rode by, I yielded to the passing impulse and touched one of 
the spotless shields with the muzzle, of my gun, I almost 
expected a grim warrior to start from the lodge and resent 
my challenge. 83 

That was Fremont to yield to the impulse, and boy- 
ishly playing the knight, touch the transformed shield. 

This first expedition of Fremont has been misunderstood 
and sneers have been cast upon it because, after all, it 


traversed only ground already familiar to the public, by 
years of previous travel. There is no indication that Fre- 
mont or the Government ever claimed to have discovered 
the South Pass ; on the contrary, the South Pass is named in 
advance in the instructions. But since the Major Stephen 
Long army expedition of 1820, no scientific report by 
a trained observer, save the report of Reverend Samuel 
Parker, had been made upon the Platte River route to the 
mountains; and the Major Long report was of the South 
Platte and the Arkansas, and not upon the North Platte. 
The Parker narrative naturally would be considered, if 
considered at all in army circles, with the interest of sus- 
picion of toleration indulgent to the cloth . 

Aside from the real purpose to w r hich the expedition was 
fitted by the expansionist senators, Benton and Linn, there 
w r as a necessity in the War Department for accurate author- 
ized data upon the North Platte country. Maps must be 
kept up to date, and memoranda filed away for future 
reference. With this exploration concluded, the War 
Department might consider itself fairly well posted upon 
the features of the trans-Missouri Country, to the moun- 
tains. Lieutenant Fremont now reported upon both the 
North Platte and the South Platte. Major Long had 
reported upon the South Platte, base of the mountains, the 
Arkansas, and the Red River. Again, in 1835, Colonel 
Henry Dodge had repeated the tour via the South Platte 
and the Arkansas and had supplied additional information, 
chiefly upon the Indian tribes. 

Mention has been made that Carson sent runners from 
the Missouri to Taos, and summoned a party of his own 
men. This was natural and that Fremont does not refer 
to the accession, in his official reports, proves naught. Oliver 
Wiggins, who accompanied the squad, and who was on the 
Fremont second expedition also, declared that names figured 
very little, in those days, and that the Fremont lists were 


incomplete and inaccurate. Moreover, the appropriations 
for the expeditions were small, even inadequate, so that the 
lieutenant would have risked criticism by extending his roll 
call unnecessarily. However, the Carson squad was an inde- 
pendent command. Wiggins relates of the trip: 

The order from Kit direct was the cause of rejoicing among 
our crowd, and we started in time to reach the fort ahead of 
the government party. 

We hurried away late in June with laden pack horses, and 
pushed east and north along the Indian trail, up through 
Pueblo, then a Mexican village of adobe buildings, up through 
the old trail fourteen miles east of the present city of Colorado 
Springs, crossing Cherry Creek at Denver, where at that time 
there was not even a cabin or permanent tent, and joining the 
party at the fort. We trappers were not engaged as a part of 
the Fremont company, but the territory through which we 
were to travel was wild and the Indians were plentiful, and 
Kit, with his usual foresight, preferred to have his men within 
call in case of trouble. It was a continuous hunting trip for 
us, with plenty of big game along the route. We lived much 
like Indians as we traveled, and I can not say that we were not 
much like them except for racial differences. 

Fremont went no miles west of Laramie to Sweetwater 
River, then up the Sweetwater. Leaving that stream we jour- 
neyed through unbroken mountains and forests to Atlantic 
and Pacific Springs, on the West Slope. About thirty miles 
west of the Springs Kit left Fremont, rejoined us, and we 
returned with our pelts to Taos, where we spent the winter. 
Fremont had learned many things heretofore unknown to the 
government, and when we parted company it was with the 
understanding that' Carson was to act as guide for a second 
expedition the next year. 

Back again in Taos, pending the second expedition, Kit 
Carson again married, just previously being baptized into 
the Roman faith. The marriage entry in the parish book, 
which is still maintained by the resident priest at Taos, 
reads as follows: 


Cristover Carson & M a . Josefa Jaramillo married on the 6th 
day of February, 1843, by the parish priest Antonio Jose 

C. Carson, son of Linsey Carson and Rebecca Rovenson of 
the State of Mo. 

Maria Josefa Jaramillo, daughter of Francisco Jaramillo and 
Maria Polonia Vigil. 

Witnesses: George Bent and Cruz Padillo, Juan Manual 
Lucero and Jose Maria Valdez. 84 

The Senora Carson, aged scarce fifteen, and therefore 
some eighteen years younger than her husband, was of 
marked brunette type, upon Spanish lines. " A style of 
beauty," observed the impressionable Lewis Garrard, seeing 
her at Taos in April, 1847, four years after the wedding, 
"of the haughty, heart-breaking kind, such as would lead a 
man, with the glance of the eye, to risk his life for one 
smile. I could not but desire her acquaintance." 85 Car- 
son had married well. The Jaramillo and Vigil families 
were highly connected with the best interests of New 
Mexico. A sister of Carson's bride was the wife of Charles 
Bent, leading American at Taos, and Donaciano Vigil, of 
Taos, had been military secretary to Governor Armijo. 

To the union of Carson and girlish Senorita Jaramillo of 
heart-breaking glance were born eight children: Charles 
(who died at nine months), William, Teresina, Christopher 
(Kit), Jr., a second Charles, Rebecca, Stella, Josefita. The 
union endured happily for twenty-five years, and then was 
only briefly interrupted by death, which removed Mrs. 
Carson first, for a month's absence from him. 

But this is anticipating. For the year is 1843. 


BETWEEN his scouting duties with the Bent, St. Vrain 
& Co. caravans, and his other trips, Kit Carson was 
allowed but scant newly-wedded bliss before, three months 
later, he was summoned to the second expedition of 
Lieutenant Fremont. 

The effect of the first expedition had been instantaneous. 
Aroused by Marcus Whitman, waiting upon the frontier of 
Missouri was gathered the first great influx of American 
colonists into Oregon. Still the Government hesitated, con- 
fronted by the equal claims to Oregon of Great Britain. 
The expansionist bill of Dr. Linn had survived the Senate, 
but had been killed in the House. Nevertheless, the expan- 
sionist spirit was not dead. Even before the first survey 
by Lieutenant Fremont had been completed, the second 
survey must have been projected; inasmuch as parting with 
Kit Carson in the mountains Lieutenant Fremont had 
engaged him for the next year. Fremont himself says, in 
reviewing the report of the expedition, by Senator Linn: 
" In the meantime the second expedition had been planned." 
And Senator Benton records : " His first expedition barely 
finished, Mr. Fremont sought and obtained orders for a 
second one." The Oregon machine worked smoothly; its 
product to be, not that fabric of selfishness which so often 
comes from the loom of politics, but a finished tapestry 
without the pattern of ignoble private aims. In urging 
Oregon, Senator Thomas H. Benton, aided by Senator 
Lewis Linn, seems to have been a true patriot, under no 




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suspicion of the land-grabbing schemes which so attach to 
the throwing open of new territory today. 

This second expedition again was one, states Senator 
Benton, by which the administration at Washington is 
entitled only to the credit of compliance, not to any credit 
of origination. It was authorized by the War Department, 
to pursue on the west side of the Rockies, in joint territory, 
the same objects that had been pursued on the east side, in 
American territory : or technically, " to connect the recon- 
naissance of 1842 with the surveys of Commander Wilkes 
on the coast of the Pacific ocean, so as to give a connected 
survey of the interior of our continent." It is known offi- 
cially as the " Exploring Expedition to Oregon and North 
California, in the years 1843-44." Practically, it extended 
far beyond its scope farther than even Fremont himself, 
who, once cut loose from red tape, rambled as the spirit 
moved him, could foresee. It suggested Utah. Mrs. Fre- 
mont declares that it led to the acquisition of California; 
and it did, in that the leader returned enthusiastic over a 
country which had been misjudged as badly as the coast to 
the north. He sowed fresh seed of covetousness in the 
heart of the American people. 

The Fremont second expedition left the village of Kansas 
(or Westport Landing) on the south bank of the Missouri 
at the present Kansas-Missouri line, May 29, 1843, and 
returned thereto July 31, 1844. It left hurriedly, on a mes- 
sage from Mrs. Fremont, who had opened orders from the 
War Department directing the leader to return to Wash- 
ington and explain why he w r as taking along a brass how- 
itzer. And, truth to tell, just at this period of territory 
agitation and of war talk between the United States and 
Mexico and England, a brass howitzer imported by a strictly 
scientific expedition into disputed bounds might fire another 
shot " heard 'round the world ; " especially in the hands of 
the impulsive Fremont. 


Besides this brass howitzer (supplied legitimately by 
Colonel Stephen W. Kearny, from the arsenal at St. Louis) 
were taken other anomalies, in shape of Jacob Dodson, 
young free negro in the service of the Benton family; a 
Prussian ex-artillerist, for the howitzer; two Delaware 
Indians for hunters. Thomas Fitzpatrick, " the Bad Hand," 
" whom many years of hardship and exposure in the West- 
ern territories had rendered familiar with a portion of the 
country it was designed to explore," was the guide. Super- 
numeraries were Frederick Dwight, a tenderfoot from 
Springfield, Massachusetts; Theodore Talbot, a young 
government draughtsman, and William Gilpin, page to 
Andrew Jackson, West Pointer of one year cadetship, lieu- 
tenant in the Seminole War, editor of the Missouri Argus, 
St. Louis (a Senator Benton paper), secretary of the Mis- 
souri General Assembly, friend in the Benton family, soon 
now to be major and lieutenant colonel of Missouri Volun- 
teers in the Mexican War, and later to be first governor of 
Colorado Territory. Lucien Maxwell accompanied them on 
his way home to Taos. The force was larger than that of 
1842, the men, besides those especially mentioned, listing 
as thirty-two the great majority, as before, Creole French 
or Canadians, but the enrollment naming such as Patrick 
White, two Campbells, Henry Lee, etc. 86 

From the Missouri at the mouth of the Kansas, the route 
of the expedition Fremont and the horsemen preceding, 
Fitzpatrick and the wagons following led westward up 
along the Kansas, thence up the valley of the Republican, 
and westerly again through the northern border of Kansas, 
where drain the southern tributaries of the Republican; 
it struck the South Platte in northeastern Colorado, and 
followed it up to Fort St. Vrain. This was reached July 4. 

From the post a detour was made southward, to obtain 
mules from Taos. At the mountain-man settlement of the 
Pueblo (name retained, in the same spot, by the second city 


of Colorado) it was learned that owing to the fomentation 
by the Texans against Mexican peace and prosperity the 
Mexican frontier was being closed to traffic, and that expor- 
tation of supplies from Taos was doubtful. But here at the 
Pueblo they " accidentally " encountered Kit Carson. He 
readily undertook a mission to procure mules from Charles 
Bent of Bent's Fort, seventy-five miles down the Arkansas. 

From the Pueblo the party returned, with a slight digres- 
sion on the way to examine the Boiling Springs of the pres- 
ent Manitou, to Fort St. Vrain, which had been appointed 
as the rendezvous with Fitzpatrick and his carts, and Carson 
and his mules. Lucien Maxwell had proceeded from the 
Pueblo south for Taos. 

As upon the previous expedition, Carson decided to take 
along his own retainers who were not loth to go. 

Fort St. Vrain, the meeting-place agreed upon, was a trading 
post at the mouth of the St. Vrain Creek, forty-two miles from 
the present city of Denver. Chamberlain, the lieutenant under 
Carson, started for the fort in time to reach there July 4, and 
that very day something happened that resulted in a serious 
breach between the Carson and Fremont parties. St. Vrain's 
people, assisted by the Fremont men, were having a celebra- 
tion. It had been a long time between Fourth of July cele- 
brations with us fellows out on the plains, and we wanted to 
get in on a little of the fun. I was out with the horses some 
distance from the fort and a sergeant of the Fremont company 
was in charge. I insisted upon going to the fort, and Pat 
White, the sergeant, refused permission. He was new to the 
ways of the plainsmen and forgot that we were not soldiers, 
hence not under any orders from his commander. Pat thought 
he was physically capable of making me submit to his orders, 
but when I went into the fort I asked them to send a wagon 
out after the sergeant, while I enjoyed the fun. There was a 
sharp scene between Fremont and Carson over the affair, but 
Kit was firm and Fremont finally instructed his men to keep 
out of trouble. Here Carson's character and determination 
cropped out plainly, and Fremont learned what kind of men 
had opened the pathways over the plains. Carson's men were 


out-numbered, but he plainly warned Fremont that although 
he was not a government officer, his word was supreme with 
his men, and that a few men armed with repeating rifles were 
more dangerous than a small army with old-fashioned guns 
and government authority. 87 

At St. Vrain's fort there joined the party as official hunter, 
Alexander Godey, " a Creole Frenchman of St. Louis, of 
medium height with black eyes and silky curling black hair, 
which was his pride " and which he permitted no one to 
disparage. In 1843 he was about twenty-five years of age, 
a trapper and trader of Indian country experience, and " in 
courage and professional skill a formidable rival to Carson." 
Here also joined the company " an Indian woman of the 
Snake nation, desirous, like Naomi of old, to return to her 
people." Newly widowed, she took her two children, 
" pretty little half-breeds, who added much to the liveliness 
of the camp." So narrates Fremont. 

In two divisions again, the expedition left the post. With 
the heavy baggage Fitzpatrick, " the White Head," pro- 
ceeded north to strike the Platte at Fort Laramie, and 
thence crossing by the South Pass, to unite with the first 
division at Fort Hall on the Snake. With Carson and 
other tried men Fremont struck up the Cache la Poudre 
River, and past Fort Collins of today, making northwest, 
around the north end of the Medicine Bow Mountains in 
northern Colorado, around North Park above the Wyo- 
ming line, and to the Sweetwater, approximating the 
future Overland Stage route from Denver to Salt Lake, 
via Bridger's Pass. 

At the Sweetwater he found already a " broad, smooth 
highway, where the numerous heavy wagons of the emi- 
grants had entirely beaten and crushed the artemisia (sage), 
a happy exchange to our poor animals for the sharp rocks 
and tough shrubs among which they had been toiling so 


The emigrant trail was followed into the valley of the 
Bear, where the various curiosities, known to trappers, were 
investigated. Fremont could not resist the lure of the lonely 
Salt Lake ; and who may blame him ? "Its islands had 
never been visited; and none were to be found who had 
entirely made the circuit of its shores. * * * It was 
generally supposed that it had no visible outlet; but among 
the trappers, including those in my own camp, were many 
who believed that somewhere on its surface was a terrible 
whirlpool, through which its waters found their way to the 
ocean by some subterranean communication." 

Not surfeited by his descent of the Platte Narrows the 
year before, Fremont, the indefatigable, had brought with 
him on this trip another rubber boat; and the act would 
indicate that out of his prosaic instructions by the War 
Department he had been inspired by thoughts which the 
department, from its office chairs in the East, little dreamed. 

Thus, with the keen enthusiasm of a Balboa (as he says), 
from a butte at the debouchment of Weber's Fork he gazed, 
the morning of September 6, upon the white-capped waters 
of the sluggishly rolling lake. I can fancy that Carson, 
beside him, surveyed them likewise with a gleam of studi- 
ous, calculating interest in his usually mild, blue eye. That 
he had visited the lake before it is reasonable to presume; 
but only incidentally, with his mind upon beaver. 

On the morning of September 9, 1843, ^ ne rubber boat, 
its crew Kit Carson, the mountain man ; John C. Fremont, 
the army man; Preuss, the German topographer; Basil 
Lajeunesse, the Creole trapper; and Baptiste Bernier, the 
Canadian voyageur, cleared away for a low island; and if 
white men were not then for the first time upon these mys- 
terious waters this was at least the first " deep sea voyage " 
recorded. And much like the mariners of the Columbus 
caravels must the explorers have felt; even the steady 
Carson, here out of his element, betrayed nervousness; 


" Captain," said Carson, who for some time had been looking 
suspiciously at some whitening appearance outside the nearest 
islands, "what are those yonder? won't you just take a 
look with the glass? " We ceased paddling for a moment, and 
found them to be the caps of the waves that were beginning 
to break under the force of a strong breeze that was coming 
up the lake. 

No other portents were encountered. Beyond being more 
lonely, it was the lake of today. 

After a night's stay upon the island, whose haunted soli- 
tude undoubtedly was, on this September the 9th, 1843, for 
the first time broken by " the cheerful sound of human 
voices," return was made to the shore. The island, about 
eight miles out, named " Castle Island " by the first Mor- 
mons, was by the government party of Captain Howard 
Stansbury, in 1849, christened Fremont Island, as was 
proper. 88 

Having done a little more than the previous explorers, 
Fremont and Carson might head north, up the Bear, for 
the rendezvous with Thomas Fitzpatrick at Fort Hall. 

At old Fort Hall (which had been drained of provisions 
by the passing emigrants) the long threatened rupture 
between the Fremont party and the Carson party occurred ; 
and that such a rupture was inevitable may easily be under- 
stood, when we understand also that the Carson men were 
mountaineers, under no obligations to the leader, and that 
the Fremont men were French voyageurs and American 
Fur Company engages. And without doubt the Taos party 
were tired of the methodical measures of the army expedi- 
tion. They foresaw much hard work, and, perhaps, little 

It was now late in September and very stormy, with rain 
and snow. When the Taos men learned that the goal was 
the coast, they balked. Many of them had been to the west- 
ward, and they knew what a tough trail it was, down the 


Snake, and that the desolation would be heightened by the 
bleak season approaching. California was mentioned, and 
this made matters worse, for the snowy passes of the Sierras 
had been a spectre ever since the Jedediah Smith and the 
Joe Walker ventures. 

According to Oliver Wiggins, the Carson contingent told 
Fremont that they would continue if he would winter at 
Walla Walla and postpone further exploration until spring : 

Fremont's men refused to go on the California trip unless 
driven to it, and the nervy youngster was told by the moun- 
taineers in the party that to be caught in the passes with sixty 
to seventy f^et of snow to block the way would be certain 

Carson tried to dissuade the impetuous Fremont, but he was 
not a man to be balked, and retorted : 

" I '11 show you fellows who think you know all about moun- 
tain exploring that I can go where I please." 

" All right, boys," said Kit to us ; " I shall go with Fre- 
mont; I cannot ask you to go." 

Fremont threatened to put us all under arrest for insubordi- 
nation, or something equally as terrible, but Kit faced him with 

a calm determination to prevent trouble. 


However, Fremont placed us under arrest as a matter of 
form, allowing us to retain our arms. The Irish sergeant with 
whom I had been unpleasantly mixed up early in the year, 
was in charge of the party, and we were sent on ahead. A 
particularly rocky cut caused a hurried order from the 
explorer to the prisoners to return and assist in clearing a 
passageway for the wagons, and we sent back a very saucy 
answer. When the messenger returned, full of wrath, our men 
were far up the mountains in another trail, going faster all 
the time, and with the helpless Irishman, whom we all hated, 
trying to hustle along and keep track of his prisoners. 

The sergeant (Patrick White, as would appear) aban- 
doned the long-winded mountain men as impossible charges, 
and descended to join the main party. As for the Taosans, 


" it broke us all up to leave Kit to the whims of Fremont, 
but we knew our traveling with the Fremont party was all 
off, and we started back alone." 

Blankets and a few supplies were obtained at Fort Hall. 
Taos was not reached until January. 

As for the onward bound expedition, the van, commanded 
by Fremont and guided by Kit Carson, the rear being in 
charge of Thomas Fitzpatrick, marched along the Oregon 
Trail down the Snake, passing many emigrants and noting 
where, at Fall Creek a short distance above Raft River 
of Idaho a fresh wagon trail branched off, a trail made 
by the main division of the Chiles California party guided 
by the veteran Joe Walker of Bonneville fame. 

November 8 Fremont called upon Governor McLoughlin, 
at Vancouver, " who received me with the courtesy and 
hospitality for which he has been eminently distinguished." 

This completed the survey as ordered. Now Lieutenant 
Fremont was officially expected to seek his station. " He 
might then have returned upon his tracks, or been brought 
home by sea, or hunted the most pleasant path for getting 
back," announces his zealous patron, Senator Benton ; " and 
if he had been a routine officer, satisfied with fulfilling an 
order, he would have done so." Possibly life would have 
flowed smoother for Fremont, and he would have escaped 
humiliation had he been more of a routine officer. As to 
his returning, in winter, by the trail of the Snake and the 
South Pass that would have been a problem. However, 
with true Fremont audacity and largesse of toil like- 
wise with true Fremont zest for spectacular endeavor for 
his return east he headed south. 

The Great Basin haunted Fremont. " All that vast 
region, more than seven hundred miles square, equal to a 
great kingdom in Europe, was an unknown land, a sealed 
book, which he longed to open and read." 89 After consul- 
tation with McLoughlin, he aimed to strike diagonally south- 


east and by cutting from the tower Columbia of Oregon 
down to the upper Colorado of Arizona, cleave the heart 
of the mystic mid-region of the continent. 

The Great Basin had already been traversed from east to 
west : by Jedediah Smith, Joe Walker, the Bartleson-Bidwell 
party, and more than halfway by Carson himself. It has 
been traversed from east to west many a time since. But 
it had not, and has not, been traversed from north to south. 
That is a different proposition. However, such a fact 
never would deter Fremont. 

Although the courtly Captain Bonneville's map and 
report, showing the contrary, had now been half a dozen 
years in circulation, still it suited the credulous world, per- 
sistent in this, as it was for a Northwest Passage, to believe 
that from the interior of the Great Basin of Utah and 
Nevada there flowed rivers to the western sea. The coast 
range was ignored, the distance was ignored, the dry atmos- 
phere which withered streams at their source was ignored, 
and ignored were the failures to locate such rivers. Popu- 
lar superstition, dating back to Father Escalante, named 
the principal stream the Buenaventura. And the Buenaven- 
tura, as the Green itself, or as a river with its head in the 
Salt Lake or some Lake Salado; the River Los Mingos or 
Timpanogos; or other river, draining that Great Basin 
country, connecting the western slope of the Rockies with 
the Pacific Ocean, thus continuing a waterway from the 
Rocky Mountains to the coast, was confidently anticipated. 

To locate such a stream ; to locate the Tlamath ( Klamath ) 
Lake ; to locate another lake termed " Mary's " these 
were the three chief objects of the desert trail by Lieutenant 
Fremont in the winter of 1843-44; and only one of the 
three objects was attained. 90 

With a band "of many nations, American, French, Ger- 
man, Canadian, Indian and colored and most of them 


young, several being under twenty-one years of age; " 104 
mules and horses, many of " thin, inferior quality," and the 
howitzer as the only thing on wheels, at noon of November 
25, " weather disagreeably cold, with flurries of snow," they 
started from the Protestant mission at The Dalles. 

On March 8 asylum was gained at Sutter's Fort, in Cali- 
fornia, near the present site of the city of Sacramento. The 
party had found the desert stern and implacable, giving 
naught and requiring all, even to life. They had found it 
hedged along its border by mountains of snow. And they 
had found no great river " with rich bottoms covered with 
wood and grass, where the wild animals would collect and 
shelter ! " When they traveled the sparsely timbered high- 
lands they were frozen and impeded by snow; when they 
descended to the bare lowlands they were starved; and at 
last, like a bird beating against the wires of a cage, having 
clung along the east base of the Sierra to the latitude of 
San Francisco Bay, they had the alternative of perishing 
here on the desert or of crossing the snow mountains 
there as well, perchance, to perish. The decision was made 
January 18, and the next day the ascent of the divide was 
begun. The howitzer soon had to be abandoned. Out of 
the sixty-seven horses and mules present at the east base, 
only thirty-three reached the west base of the Sierra; and 
among the lost was the buffalo horse Proveau. But, lead- 
ing the other animals "a woeful procession crawling 
along one by one, skeleton men leading skeleton horses " 
the explorers, after having encountered, as they had been 
forewarned by Indians, snow deep as a tree and precipices 
whence the wayfarer would fall half a mile, the travelers 
appropriated the future trail of the Forty-niners, topped the 
high Sierra and following a little creek which, ice-covered, 
waxed to a rushing river, the American, they won out, on 
the last of February, into the genial, paradise valley of the 


Here was Captain Johann August Sutter, Swiss-Ameri- 
can, who, in 1839, had wandered down from the Oregon 
Trail, and with his " eight Kanakas, three white men, an 
Indian and a bulldog," having out of his awarded inch 
taken an ell, was now, the self-styled Gobernador de Fortel- 
eza de Nueva Helvecia, as secure as any pirate king or 
baron of rock-eyried castle on the Rhine. Governor John 
McLoughlin himself of Vancouver, was a seigneur scarce 
more powerful. 

" Sutter's Fort " was destined to be the Mecca for the 
gold pilgrimage of '49, was destined sooner to be the base 
for the Fremont invasion of the memorable year '46, and 
was already a harbor for revolutionists and always a haven 
for the traveler and particularly the Americano. 

The outer walls, 1 50 by 500 feet, according to Lieutenant 
Joseph Warren Revere of the United States sloop of war 
Cyane, were fifteen feet high and two feet thick, flanked 
by the customary bastions at diagonally opposite corners. 91 

Recuperated by the kindly offices of the sturdy, bald- 
headed, blue-eyed Captain Sutter (whom men like Carson 
and Thomas Fitzpatrick, as well as Fremont himself, could 
appreciate) the expedition proceeded southward up the val- 
ley of the San Joaquin, scene of Kit Carson's first excur- 
sion through California, as a boy, 1829, with Ewing Young. 
Ewing Young had been dead three years ; and the California 
as he knew it was soon to be dead, also. 

About the northern latitude of southern California, or 
opposite San Luis Obispo above the Point Conception, the 
expedition, which had been skirting the inner flanks of the 
Sierra Nevada range between California and the desert, 
made obliquely to the east, and led by a native refugee 
Christian Indian through the Tah-ee-chay-pah Pass (the 
route today followed by the Santa Fe railroad from the 
desert to Bakersfield), emerged upon the awaiting arid 
stretch of the Mohave Desert. 


Across this Mohave Desert had Kit Carson toiled west- 
ward, on his trapping trip under Ewing Young; and back 
across it had he and Captain Young fled, evading the out- 
raged authority of the alcalde of Los Angeles. But this 
third trip, of 1844, was in April, when, if ever, the desert 
had softened and bloomed. 

After a continued traverse southward, the Spanish Trail 
was encountered; and by this, leading northeastward, the 
Great Basin was skirted not, as Fremont had planned, 
cut asunder. The energetic Joseph Walker, again return- 
ing to the States, via Santa Fe, with a great caravan of 
horses and mules, the first of the spring caravans out of 
Los Angeles, joined the party at the good-water camp of 
Las Vegas de Santa Clara (the Santa Clara Meadows), 
and accompanied them from the rim of the desert, past Utah 
Lake, and over the Wasatch. 

Now by the Uintah of northeastern Utah (where Antoine 
Robidoux was maintaining his fort for the last year), east- 
ward up the Yampah of northwestern Colorado, and along 
the Wyoming line (where the veteran Fraeb had forted and 
died) they traveled fast, turning south, descending through 
the three parks of central Colorado North or New Park, 
Middle or Old Park, South Park or the Bayou Salade, famil- 
iar and reminiscent ground to all trappers and traders, but 
yet, as Fremont explains, " unknown to science and history." 

From the Bayou Salade crossing to the upper Arkansas, 
the party descended, having Pike's Peak as a landmark, to 
the Pueblo, " where we had the pleasure to find a number 
of our old acquaintances." And now 

our cavalcade moved rapidly down the Arkansas, along the 
broad road which follows the river, and on the ist of July we 
arrived at Bent's Fort, about 70 miles below the mouth of the 
Fontaine-qui-bouit. As we emerged into view from the groves 
on the river, we were saluted with a display of the national 
flag and repeated discharges from the guns of the fort, where 


we were received by Mr. George Bent with a cordial welcome 
and a friendly hospitality. 

As chronicles the Peters biography of Carson : " On the 
following Fourth of July Mr. Bent gave a dinner in com- 
memoration of the occasion to Fremont and his party. 
Although hundreds of miles separated from their country- 
men, yet they sat down to as sumptuous a repast as could be 
furnished in many towns of the States." The icehouse and 
the carefully doled stirrup cups for which the post was 
famous, doubtless added zest to the banquet. 

At the post the expedition practically disbanded; and 
those who wished to remain did so. Carson, and probably 
Captain Joe Walker, on his way to Santa Fe, rode for Taos, 
the former to seek his home and bride, after a year's absence 
and the completion of his longest continuous trail, roughly 
5,500 miles, the trail of the explorer surpassing the trail 
of the trapper. 

With his spoils of the country with his Indians, his 
Mexicans, his saddle-horse Sacramento, iron-gray, " of the 
best California stock/' gift from Captain Sutter Lieu- 
tenant Fremont set out for St. Louis. He arrived, " inspired 
with California," full of facts and theories, convinced that 
the Buenaventura and other alleged rivers draining the Great 
Basin into the Pacific were myths, but to write upon his map 
in a long arc covering that immense vacant area from the 
Salt Lake to the Sierra, from the Columbia River to the 
Mohave of southern California: 

THE GREAT BASIN: diameter 11 of latitude, 10 of 
longitude; elevation above the sea between 4 and 5,000 feet; 
surrounded by lofty mountains ; contents almost unknown, but 
believed to be filled with rivers and lakes which have no com- 
munication with the sea, deserts and oases which have never 
been explored, and savage tribes, which no traveler has seen or 

But he returned to fame and to the double brevet (well 


earned) of first lieutenant and captain, and, if conquered 
by the desert, nevertheless to spread word, by authority, of 

the Great Salt Lake, the Utah Lake, the Little Salt Lake ; at 
all which places, then desert, the Mormons now are; the 
Sierra Nevada, then solitary in the snow, now crowded with 
Americans digging gold from its flanks; the beautiful valleys 
of the Sacramento and San Joachin, then alive with wild horses, 
elk, deer, and wild fowls, now smiling with American cultiva- 
tion ; the Great Basin itself, and its contents ; the Three Parks ; 
the approximation of the great rivers which, rising together 
in the central region of the Rocky Mountains, go off east and 
west, toward the rising and the setting sun: all these, and 
other strange features of a new region, more Asiatic than 
American. 92 ' 

Where in 1844 only that arc of Fremont's printed words, 
in lieu of any trail, traversed Utah and Nevada, condemning 
them, today are scattered the homes of enlightened men, 
despoiling of fruit and ore the giants' caches in earth and 
rock. But even knowing this, we cannot disparage the 
accurate guess of Fremont as to the topography of the vast 
country; and it was his report upon the territory along the 
east of the Salt Lake (" good soil and good grass adapted 
to civilized settlements") which attracted the eye of Brig- 
ham Young. Or, at least, so rather superciliously states the 
Mormon governor himself: 

From Fremont's reports, we determined to get our wagons 
together, form a grand caravan and travel through the country 
to the Salt Lake, 1,000 miles from any civilized settlement. 
We started out with 147 people and 73 wagons. This was 
in 1847. * * * Salt Lake plain is a natural desert. When 
we struck this plain there was nothing on it but sage-bushes. 93 

In this the second of the government explorations engi- 
neered by the Oregon expansionists, but which really 
exploited California (for Oregon was taking care of itself) 
Kit Carson might have just pride. It was a distinct achieve- 
ment and he had played a Carson part. The first expedi- 


tion, to the South Pass and back, had required of him little 
extra ability, and had brought him no added repute. He 
had proved a safe guide; that was all. 

On this second expedition he was given opportunity to 
demonstrate his high qualities of frontiersman. Moreover, 
although his status in the expedition is not declared, Fitz- 
patrick being the guide and Godey being the hunter, he 
appears to have been an important factor. When messages 
were to be carried he usually was selected; and when the 
commander chose a bodyguard he was in the number. It 
was his descriptions of the vales of the Sacramento which 
put heart into the company, toiling amidst the snow and ice 
of the Sierra; and it was his keen eye and his experience, 
out of all the party, which enabled him to renew hope again 

Far below us, dimmed by the distance, was a large snowless 
valley, bounded on the western side, at the distance of about a 
hundred miles, by a low range of mountains which Carson 
recognized with delight as the mountains bordering the coast. 
" There," said he, " is the little mountain it is fifteen years 
ago since I saw it; but I am just as sure as if I had seen it 
yesterday." Between us, then, and this low coast range, was 
the valley of the Sacramento ; and no one who had not accom- 
panied us through the incidents of our life for the past few 
months, could realize the delight with which at last we looked 
down upon it. 

The one incident which stands out above the routine of 
daily heroism shared by all the company announces Carson, 
and must have fixed him indelibly in the minds of the Gov- 
ernment. And, at the same time, it shows that in the West 
Kit Carson did not possess the only stock of generous cour- 
age. Alexander Godey, younger and less widely known, 
was a man who, granted the opportunity, was doubtless Kit 
Carson's equal in dash and bravery. Whether he possessed 
those intrinsic qualities which elevated Carson above the 


majority of the mountaineers and plainsmen, no matter how 
daring, we cannot judge. Of course, it takes more than the 
deed to make a man ; motives are to be considered. 

But for the incident : on the homeward way by the Span- 
ish Trail two Mexicans, Andreas Fuentes and an eleven- 
year-old boy, Pablo Fernandez, came as refugees into the 
Fremont camp, reporting that the remainder of their party 
(the wife of Fuentes, the father and mother of Pablo, and 
one Santiago Giacome), surprised in camp by the Indians, 
had probably been killed or captured. The two refugees, 
on horse-guard, had escaped with about thirty horses. 

The Fremont camp took the back trail of the two Mexi- 
cans, found that the horses, left at a watering place, had 
been seized by the savages and driven away; and here 
Carson, Godey, and the Mexican Fuentes set off upon the 
fresh trail to pursue the marauders. 

The Mexican presently was back with Fremont, his horse 
having failed. But 

in the afternoon of the next day a war-whoop was heard, 
such as Indians make when returning from a victorious enter- 
prise; and soon Carson and Godey appeared, driving before 
them a band of horses, recognized by Fuentes to be part of 
those they had lost. Two bloody scalps, dangling from the 
end of Godey's gun, announced that they had overtaken the 
Indians as well as the horses. 

The entrance was spectacular and truly mountain-man. 

The twain, Carson and Godey, had continued the pursuit, 
and at nightfall had entered among mountains. They fol- 
lowed the plain trail by moonlight, until the moon was low 
and did not penetrate into defiles. The trail was to be dis- 
tinguished only by feeling, while the two led their horses and 
groped for it. They judged that the fugitives were but a 
few hours ahead, so they unsaddled and camped, without 
fire or food, to rest and wait until daybreak. Early in the 




(From Fremont's Memoirs) 

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morning they did make a small fire for warmth, trusting 
that in the seclusion of the ravine it would be inconspicuous. 
Then they resumed the trail. 

Just at sunrise the Indians were discovered, about two 
miles in advance, in camp among the bare hills, and break- 
fasting on horse steaks. The stolen stock was grazing 
without guard ; and Carson and Godey decided to creep down 
among the horses, possibly to edge the animals away and 
stampede them. They made a successful stalk; but scarcely 
had they arrived safely when " one of the young horses of 
the band became frightened at the grotesque figures cut by 
the two creeping men, and exhibited his fear by snorting 
and kicking up his heels." 

The Indians sprang for their arms. Instant action was 
the only salvation for the mountain men. With a loud yell 
they charged. They shot at the same man, who fell; and 
Godey, swiftly reloading, struck down another. The 
Indians replied with their long bows or war bows (desert 
weapons more formidable than even those of the tribes of 
the Rockies and the plains), and an arrow passed through 
Godey's shirt collar, grazing his neck. Astonished and 
puzzled by the boldness of two men who charged thirty, the 
savages, suspicious of a trap, fled, leaving the horses, the 
two fallen comrades, and a boy. 

In possession of the camp, Godey proceeded to scalp the 
victims while Carson stood guard. The Indian shot by 
Godey was dead; but the other Indian, with two balls 
through his body, revived during the scalping process, and 

sprang to his feet, the blood streaming from his skinned 
head, and uttered a hideous howl. An old squaw, possibly his 
mother, stopped and looked back from the mountain side she 
was climbing, threatening and lamenting. The frightful spec- 
tacle appalled the stout hearts of our men ; but they did what 
humanity required, and quickly terminated the agonies of the 
gory savage. 


The abandoned boy, the bulk of the stolen horses, a quan- 
tity of horse beef boiling in large clay pots, and several 
baskets containing fifty or sixty pairs of moccasins were the 
fruits of the conquest. 


IN THE spring of 1845 John Charles Fremont, possessed 
of his double brevet of first lieutenant and captain in the 
Topographical Engineers of the United States Army, has 
finished the dictation of his adventures and observations, 
and upon March i the report has been given to Congress. 
A third expedition is being prepared by a southern route to 
the Sierra again: scientific exploration of Mexican terri- 
tory its reason, its object the presence of an American force 
to take advantage of circumstances. For Texas is about 
to be annexed, the Oregon boundary is to be settled, and 
California, too, is to be added to the territory of the 
Republic. The Oregon and California migrations continue; 
the Texas migration is under way; and at Nauvoo, Illinois, 
the Mormon dictator, Brigham Young, is considering the 
hegira of 1846-1847. 

Meantime Kit Carson has gone to farming in New 
Mexico. About this move upon his part is something typi- 
cal of his dual nature. A mountain man, a roamer, " who 
for fifteen years saw not the face of a white woman, or slept 
under a roof," a terrific Indian fighter, he also was a home 
man, or lover of fireside and family and of peaceful ways. 
We find him now in the summer of 1845 settled with his 
younger mountain-man friend, Dick Owens, upon a tract 
of land near the Cimarron about fifty miles east of Taos. 

Here we may see him supervising tilling, planting, build- 
ing and gathering about him his herds and implements; a 
change which does him double credit, for in all the great 
company of mountain men he was one of the very few who 



realized that wealth and prosperity lay in the land over 
which they had ridden, not in the animals and the people 
who were transient. It took many years more of the West 
to teach this to the world. The Eldorado of the beaver trap 
must first be succeeded by the Eldorado of the miner's 
shovel and pick, and the rodeo of the long-horn cow trample 
into dust the ground later to be abloom with wheat and 
corn, apple and potato. 

In August, 1845, Kit Carson, settled down to a life which 
he was but rarely to enjoy, vainly planning to be quiet in 
the midst of world-changing events, received word by 
express rider from Bent's Fort that Captain Fremont was 
there and awaiting him. 

Oliver Wiggins claimed that Carson was by this time 
tired of Fremont; and moreover was cautious of such lead- 
ership. But we do not need the Wiggins assertion. Kit 
Carson had resolved to change his mode of life, to devote 
himself more to his family, and to make the most of this 
fertile country. No doubt he did much regret having prom- 
ised his services again to Fremont. But he had so promised 
(Wiggins says that he had signed a contract), and " With 
me," declares Fremont, " Carson and truth are one." 

Having probably given up his home in Taos when he 
removed his family to the rancho, Carson must dispose of 
his wife as well as of his ranch ; and as if apprehending that 
his absence was to be long, again, and that troublous times 
were hovering upon the horizon, he placed her with the 
household of Charles Bent, whose own wife was a Jara- 
millo, sister to Mrs. Carson. His ranch he sold at a sacri- 
fice price. 

The Fremont third expedition, starting from St. Louis 
but organizing at Bent's Fort, contained many familiar 
faces. Carson was there ; Lucien Maxwell was there ; Basil 
Lajeunesse was there not to return again; Godey was 
there, McDowell, the former tenderfoot, and Talbot of 



(Photograph by George L. Beam) 



(Photograph by O. T. Davis, Alamosa, Colorado) 


Washington, Jacob Dodson, the negro, and Thomas Fitz- 
patrick, and probably Joe Walker, and the iron-gray horse 
El Toro del Sacramento the Bull of the Sacramento. 

Among the new faces were twelve Delawares and an 
Iowa half-breed, under the Delaware chiefs, Swanok and 
Sagundai; Lieutenant J. W. Abert and Lieutenant G. W. 
Peck ; Edward Kern of Philadelphia, topographer, succeed- 
ing the German Preuss; Archambeau, the Canadian hunter; 
Stepp, the gunsmith, who was to spike the cannon at the 
Golden Gate ; and Richard Owens, " Dick " Owens, within 
a year to be Captain of Company A, First California Bat- 
talion of Mounted Riflemen, Colonel John C. Fremont com- 
manding, but at present characterized only as a friend of 
Kit Carson. 

Lieutenants Abert and Peck, with Thomas Fitzpatrick as 
guide and the trader Hatcher (whom Garrard, in his Wah- 
to-Yah makes famous) as hunter, and with some thirty 
other men, were detached for reconnaissance from Bent's 
Fort down the Canadian River country through northern 
Texas to the lower Arkansas, thence north to St. Louis. 

On August 26 Captain Fremont himself left Bent's Fort 
with 200 horses and a " well-appointed, compact party of 
sixty, mostly experienced and self-reliant men, equal to any 
emergency likely to occur and willing to meet it." 

So from Bent's Fort, which was having its last year of 
lordly isolation, they set out ostensibly to explore " that 
section of the Rocky Mountains which gives rise to the 
Arkansas River, the Rio Grande del Norte of the Gulf of 
Mexico, and the Rio Colorado of the Gulf of California; 
to complete the examination of the Great Salt Lake and its 
interesting region ; and to extend the survey west and south- 
west to the examination of the great ranges of the Cascade 
Mountains and the Sierra Nevada." 

From Bent's Fort they ascended along the Arkansas by 
the trappers' trail into the foothills, and to the mouth of 


the Grand Canon of the Arkansas; here, at the site 
of present Canon City, Colorado, they camped for a night. 
Thence diverging northward, to circumvent this Grand 
Canon, they traveled through the region of Cripple Creek, 
and westward, evidently up Four Mile Creek, through the 
lower end of the South Park or Bayou Salade until they 
struck the Arkansas again near Buena Vista. Now they 
ascended along the river, paralleling the later route of the 
Denver & Rio Grande railroad, camped on the west shore 
of the upper of the beautiful Twin Lakes; and passing 
over the continental divide near Leadville (where they 
noted the lakes of the high country) by the divide between 
the Eagle and the Blue rivers they reached the Piney 
River, tributary of the Grand. Crossing, still on a course 
north by west, to the White River, they descended by Indian 
and trapper trail to the juncture with the Green of Utah, 
and probably by that post road which still exists, they 
pressed west, beyond the Green, through the Uintah coun- 
try, to Provo near the shore of Utah Lake. From here 
the southern part of the Great Salt Lake was readily acces- 

So far the route of the Third Expedition had approxi- 
mated the homeward route of the Second Expedition, 1844. 
At Great Salt Lake little new was developed; systematic 
observations were taken, and Antelope Island, familiar today 
to all visitors to the lake, was investigated. But the trail 
which awaited was a quantity as yet undeterminable. Fre- 
mont proposed to test it out. 

At this point we were to leave the lake. From any neighboring 
mountain height looking westward, the view extended over 
ranges which occupied apparently the whole visible surface 
nothing but mountains, and in winter time a forbidding pros- 
pect. Afterwards, as we advanced, we found the lengthening 
horizon continued the same prospect until it stretched over 
the waters of the Pacific. Looking across over the crests of 


these ridges, which nearly all run north and south, was like 
looking lengthwise along the teeth of a saw. * * * The 
country looked dry and of my own men none knew anything 
of it; neither Walker nor Carson. The Indians declared to 
us that no one had ever been known to cross the plain, which 
was desert. * * * Men who have traveled over this 
country in later years are familiar with the stony, black, 
unfertile mountains, that so often discouraged and brought 
them disappointment. 94 

Jedediah Smith the omnipresent, had, however, crossed, 
about here, in 1827, returning from California; and soon 
the Hastings emigrant trail was to trace lasting furrows 
for women and children to follow. 

On October 28, Carson, Maxwell, Archambeau the hunter, 
and a camp tender, were sent ahead, supplied with water, 
to cross the sagy, arid plain which intervened between the 
Salt Lake and those bare, saw-tooth ranges westward; to 
ascertain whether there was water beyond, and to signal 
back by smoke. For Fremont, taught one lesson by that 
desert which yielded not a whit to any enthusiast, was 

These four, with a pack mule, made a march of sixty 
miles before, at the foot of the mountains, they found 
water and grass. They signaled by smoke, and Archambeau 
rode back to meet Fremont. He found him advanced into 
the desert, but abandoned by his Indian guide whom the 
terrors of the unknown had so affected that " his knees 
really gave way under him and he wabbled like a drunken 
man. * * * He was so happy in his release that he 
bounded off like a hare through the sagebrush, fearful that 
I might still keep him." 

Now, by a succession of little passes connecting short 
low range with short low range, the expedition proceeded 
westward, until on November 5, at the eastern side of the 
Humboldt chain of mountains, the party divided the 


major portion, under topographer Kern and Joe Walker, 
the desert guide, being directed to strike the Mary's or 
Ogden's River to the northwest, and follow it down. Fre- 
mont, with ten selected men, " some of whom were Dela- 
wares," the others including Carson, Owens, Maxwell, 
meanwhile continued across the southern half of the Great 

The meeting place was to be the vicinity of Walker's 
Lake. The Fremont trail thereto led from Franklin Lake 
and the south end of the Ruby Range, in eastern Nevada, 
southward through Eureka County, well into Nye County, 
thence through Esmeralda County to Walker's Lake. The 
lake was attained without incident. Another joint (the first 
being the Mary's River) had been found in the armor of 
the Great Basin; and although the Fremont route was 
improved upon by later explorations; although, in conse- 
quence of the California troubles, his investigations of 1845 
received less notice by the world and were less thoroughly 
exploited by himself than those of his which preceded, he 
really pioneered the most feasible trail at that time; and, 
as he claims in his report, he and his party were the first 
white men to traverse this, the prospector's end of Nevada, 
today still a terra incognita save to the stage, the pack 
animal, his companion treasure seeker, and the wandering 

Previous to this exploration in the late fall of 1845, m 
maps and in public assertion the whole of the Great Basin 
from the Salt Lake to the Sierras was represented " as a 
sandy plain, barren, without water, and without grass." 
But of the southern half, 

instead of a plain, I found it, throughout its whole extent, 
traversed by parallel ranges of mountains, their summits white 
with snow (October) ; while below, the valleys had none. 
Instead of a barren country, the mountains were covered with 
grasses of the best quality, wooded with several varieties of 


trees, and containing more deer and mountain sheep than we 
had seen in any previous part of our voyage. 95 

From Walker's Lake, again in two divisions the party 
assault the Sierra ramparts of alluring California: the 
Fremont squad by the north, past Reno, and up the Truckee 
(Salmon Trout) River and over the trail of the Forty- 
niners, and of the later Pony Express; the Kern- Walker 
company by a route farther southward and already known 
to Walker. 

For winter had arrived (as Fremont knew that winter 
would arrive) ; it had caught them upon the desert (as 
Fremont knew that it would catch them), and for provi- 
sions they must digress into California again (as Fremont 
knew that they would digress). Thus the case stands. 
With the alleged legitimate excuse of the year before, he 
entered the fair estate, and on December 9 he was safely 
at Sutter's Fort. The fascination of that second visit which 
always tantalizes the trespasser had proved too much. 96 

At Sutter's Fort he was " received with the same friendly 
hospitality which had been so delightful to us the year 
before " ; and, as he naively adds : 

I found that our previous visit had created some excitement 
among the Mexican authorities. But to their inquiries he 
[Sutter] had explained that I had been engaged in a geograph- 
ical survey of the interior and had been driven to force my 
way through the snow of the mountains simply to obtain a 
refuge and food where I knew it could be had at his place, 
which was by common report known to me. 

So here, within less than a year, were again the same 
Americanos; and in view of the fact that Captain Sutter 
was under suspicion, that the American explorers were 
under suspicion, and that the times were under suspicion, 
who may marvel that the conjunction of the three was a 
portent of much evil omen in the Mexican horoscope? 


Various decrees had been issued forbidding the entrance 
of strangers without passports and particularly the 
entrance of foreign troops or of gringo families. Yet what 
did they amount to, if here was to be admitted not only a 
fresh party, but a party armed and under a United States 
army captain? 

However, these discussions may be postponed, as post- 
poned they were, while the zealous Fremont, needing, after 
all, no recuperation at Sutter's Fort (for he had gathered 
supplies of food, fodder, and strength on the way down) 
turned to the southward, up the San Joaquin, for the ren- 
dezvous near Lake Tulare with the Kern- Walker company. 
But through an error in mutual understanding the reunion 
did not occur until the middle of February, about twelve 
miles south of San Jose, at the Pacific rather than at the 
Sierra side of the uneasy territory. 

Carson and Dick Owens were the twain who, scouting 
on information from the natives, effected the juncture of 
the two parties. This was Carson's third exploration of 
California;. Like Fremont he was enamored of the place, 
and reports secondhand would indicate that he, like Fre- 
mont, and in fact like the majority of tourists, had designs 
of living here. But he never did live here. After the 
Mexican war he made but one visit to the country, of brief 

The third expedition had so far brought few thrills, and 
Carson had little opportunity to demonstrate his prowess. 
In the trip up the San Joaquin Valley there had been skir- 
mishes with the " Horse-Thief Indians " the renegades 
from the secularization of the missions; skirmishes fatal 
to the aborigines, but practically harmless to the invaders. 

" Wait, you rascals ! " these natives threatened, after their 
first discomfiture. " Wait, till morning ! There are two 
big villages up in the mountains close by; we have sent 
for the chief; he '11 be down before morning with all the 


people, and you will all die. None of you shall go back; 
we will have all your horses." 

But they had found in the new race, with buckskins and 
long rifles, a foe of a new fiber, a foe skilled in brush 
fighting, apt with the bullet, and undeterred by threats or 
apparent odds. 

Now Fremont is snug in California again. Outside is 
that Great Basin, branded with the Fremont irons Hum- 
boldt River, Humboldt Mountains, Pilot Knob, Basil Creek, 
Sagundai Spring, Walker River, Walker's Lake, Owens 
Lake. Some of the brands have stuck, others have been 
changed and may scarcely be recognized, as if the desert 
sands and sage had grown over them. 97 


THE grasp of Mexico upon California is the grasp of 
a palsied old man upon a wayward child; and as such 
a weakling is Mexico to be treated. 

Captain Fremont has been to Monterey, where he has 
called upon Consul and Confidential Agent Thomas O. 
Larkin, ex-Governor Colonel Juan Alvarado, Captain Man- 
uel Castro, the prefect, Don Jose Castro, the general com- 
manding, and the alcalde; has explained what were the 
ostensible purposes of the expedition, being " in the inter- 
ests of science and of commerce/' and that the party are 
citizens, not soldiers ; that he wished to obtain supplies and 
to proceed to Oregon. It is claimed that this permission to 
recruit was fully given, with the gracious Bueno, Senor, 
of the Mexican high and low. But instead of pursuing a 
course northeastward, around San Francisco Bay and on 
to Oregon, the Fremont party, sixty strong, to the dis- 
comfiture of the Department of Monterey, resumed their 
course southward, as for the coast and Monterey itself. 98 

At the Salinas River, March 5, " in the afternoon the 
quiet of the camp was disturbed by the sudden appearance 
of a cavalry officer with two men." He was Lieutenant 
Chaves, with a very natural if unexpected order from head- 
quarters that the Americans leave the boundaries of the 
department by the quickest route. 

Despite the fact that the message was irritating in its 
brusqueness (military though that was) and in its threat 
to use force, and was irritatingly delivered by the caballero 
who despised the gringo, Fremont's reception of it was 


THE YEAR '46 247 

wrong. Hot-headed, and supported by followers likewise 
intolerant of anything Spanish, he reproved the officer and 
sent by him word that departure from the district would 
be made as suited convenience. " I desired him to say in 
reply to General Castro that I peremptorily refused com- 
pliance with an order insulting to my government and 
myself." " 

As much of a freebooter as any Francis Drake, Captain 
Fremont, early in the morning of April 6, moved a few miles 
to the crest of the hill-divide about thirty miles east of 
Monterey, between the Salinas and the San Benito rivers, 
and on Gavilan, or Hawk Peak, which overlooked the mis- 
sion of San Juan and the valley of the Salinas, he built 
" a rough but strong fort of solid logs," and upon a tall 
sapling " the American flag was raised amidst the cheers of 
the men." 

Here he had turned at bay, defying the government of 
California that feeble arm of old Mexico to budge 
him from the field of trespass. He had no shadow of 
right on his side, save the right of self-defense; whereas 
General Castro was acting entirely within his rights, hav- 
ing received a fresh order from Mexico that the Fremont 
company were not upon any account to be admitted into the 

Thus the American flag by land first broke out belliger- 
ently in Alta California; and it practically was not furled. 

Meanwhile, on March n, in the East, General Zachary 
Taylor had crossed the Rubicon also by marching from the 
Nueces for the Rio Grande, carrying the flag into the 119 
miles of unsurrendered Mexican territory. The word had 
gone forth: and from this second week of March, 1846, 
dates 5,000 miles of new American seacoast and 1,000 miles 
square of new American interior. At the same time Presi- 
dent James K. Folk's absolute declaration, in his first 
message to Congress, December, 1845, tna t he stood out 


for " Fifty- four Forty or Fight," had reached the British 

Now from the hilltop the Fremont half -hundred, of one 
mind against the Spaniard, watched the forces of Don 
Castro mobilizing at the San Juan Bautista mission below. 
The raising of the flag was spectacular enough to satisfy 
even a Fremont, and it was a new sensation to the majority 
of the men. Fremont himself, suddenly in command in a 
moment of war, rather courted the experience; and when 
a body of cavalry approached he went down a short dis- 
tance to meet and ambush them. Whether he had military 
ability (appointed from civilian life to a corps which 
required no training in tactics) we shall never know, for the 
ascending party turned back and the hill was not stormed. 

In truth, a force of 300 soldiers, regular or irregular, 
might long hesitate ere assaulting a fortified hill patrolled 
and garrisoned by American sharpshooters, with their 
keen eyes, steady hands, and long rifles. The battle of New 
Orleans had proved the breed. 

Having three days awaited the enemy, and the flag having 
fallen with weariness, Captain Fremont concluded to obey, 
as he ingenuously puts it, the obligations of a scientific party 
in foreign territory, and go upon his way. 

The Americans proceeded inland across to the valley of 
the San Joaquin; General Castro captured the fortress on 
Gavilan and munitions of war to the extent of the flagpole, 
some extemporaneous tent poles, a few old garments, two 
discarded pack saddles, and some stray native horses. 
Whereupon might it be reported by proclamation that the 
band of highwaymen under this Captain Fremont had been 
driven out and sent into the back country; as a matter of 
fact, forced into hiding among the bullrushes of the Sacra- 
mento ! 

Leaving behind them a trail of unwholesome excitement, 
fed by rumors of all kinds, in the fascinating aftermath 

THE YEAR '46 249 

of the California rainy season, the Americans proceeded, 
unmolested and unpursued, down the lush, green valley of 
the San Joaquin, and up the equally pleasing valley, poppy- 
strewn, of the Sacramento; again past Sutter's Fort, past 
the site of Marys ville where the Yuba empties into the 
Feather River, and ever toward the Sierra a northward 
course which they should have taken at the outset. The 
ranch of Joseph Neal, mountain man and blacksmith with 
the second expedition, but now a farmer, was visited on a 
side stream of the Sacramento above Sutter's; and May 
6 the company were at Klamath Lake, southern Oregon 
the lake of the winter of December, 1843, when the trail 
from The Dalles of Oregon southward for the fabled Buena- 
ventura and Mary's Lake skirted it. 

Here Captain Fremont was in his chosen element and 
the w r ord is used literally, for his element was the wilds 
wherein he loved to believe that he was the first white man. 
From the Klamath Lake west across the Cascade Range to 
the coast were mountains, streams, and lakes (he pictured) 
forming a land which " had never been explored or mapped, 
or in any way brought to common knowledge, or rarely 
visited except by strong 1 parties of trappers, and by those 
at remote intervals, doubtless never by trappers singly. It 
was a true wilderness. * * * All this gave the country 
a charm for me. It would have been dull work if it had 
been to plod over a safe country and here and there to 
correct some old error." 10 Nothing better reveals the 
Fremont character than this concluding sentence. The 
conventional did not appeal to him. 

To penetrate these tempting recesses, to climb these beck- 
oning summits, to open mysteries, to emerge perhaps upon 
a new and valuable harbor, to find perhaps a good untrav- 
eled trail, to discover perhaps game in new abundance and 
new variety, to be able to announce new vegetation, new 
scenery with such hopes Fremont thrilled, as did Carson, 


Maxwell, and all the adventurers, facing, like the Cabots, 
the Hudsons, the Drakes, upon an enchanted sea. 

Man proposes; but a Higher Will disposes. California 
apparently had been left far behind ; and from fighters the 
company had become once more peaceable explorers. The 
change back again was even more dramatic. I cannot 
improve upon the lines of Fremont himself : 

How fate pursues a man! Thinking and ruminating over 
these things [i. e., the scenes and discoveries anticipated], I was 
standing alone by my camp fire, enjoying its warmth, for the 
night air of early spring is chill under the shadows of the high 
mountains. Suddenly my ear caught the faint sound of horses' 
feet, and while I was watching and listening as the sounds, 
so strange hereabouts, came nearer, there emerged from the 
darkness into the circle of the firelight two horsemen 
riding slowly as though horse and man were fatigued by long 
traveling. In the foremost I recognized the familiar face of 
Neal, with a companion whom I also knew. They had ridden 
nearly a hundred miles in the last two days, having been sent 
forward by a United States officer who was on my trail with 
dispatches for me; but Neal had doubted if he would get 
through. 101 

The meeting of Livingston and Stanley in the wilds of 
Africa was not more startling than this meeting, on May 8, 
1846, of the Fremont party in camp by the lonely lake and 
the two messengers from Lieutenant Gillespie. 

Neal and his comrade Sigler reported that the officer, 
left behind, had dispatches from Washington for Fremont, 
and that he was threatened by Indians; that he had with 
him only three men, and that rescue might not arrive in 

The trail by night would be impassable ; but early in the 
morning the Fremont relief squad set out Fremont, Car- 
son, Owens, Stepp, Godey, Basil Lajeunesse, Denny the 
Iowa half-breed, and four Delawares. After a hard ride 

THE YEAR '46 251 

of forty-five miles, on the back trail, at a previous camp 
by a small stream in a glade the messenger, Lieutenant 
Archibald Gillespie of the Marine Corps of the Navy, and 
his three men, were sighted. 

The dispatches, which were in the shape of letters, had 
left Washington, in the hands of Lieutenant Gillespie, the 
previous October, had traveled with him through " the 
heart of Mexico, from Vera Cruz to Mazatlan," thence 
up the coast of California to Monterey and inland to the 
Klamath Lake of present Oregon. Now, May 9, they 
were delivered. 

The nature of these missives has long been a topic for 
debate. The Government is silent upon them as the 
Government always would be silent upon matters of state- 
craft. We have the word of Fremont, of Mrs. Fremont, 
and of Senator Benton, as to their contents, and that should 
be sufficient. The dispatches consisted of a letter of cre- 
dentials from the Department of State, a letter from Sena- 
tor Benton, letters and newspapers from " home " ; and 
the verbal interpretation of Lieutenant Gillespie. That 
verbal interpretation is the fraction hardest to estimate. 

Many fractions must be added, to make the sum: the 
fraction of Fremont's conversations, before leaving Wash- 
ington, with Secretary Bancroft, Senator Benton, and 
others; the fraction of the dispatches having pursued him 
with such persistency; the fraction of the tenor of the 
various missives a fraction very elusive, this; the frac- 
tion (another delicate, almost undeterminable item) of 
Lieutenant Gillespie's words and accented syllables and 
emphasized sentences; the fraction of conjectures as to 
what had occurred in the last six months; and summed to 
what result? Simply that Fremont was burdened with the 
responsibility of his own discretion. 

The various letters contained, individually, nothing deci- 
sive. By veiled allusions they must dovetail according to 


the intuition of the reader. War with Mexico was at hand ; 
the wheel of the ship California was not to be seized, but 
she was adroitly to be piloted past English and French 
signals into American waters. 

Was Fremont the man to be entrusted with such dis- 
cretion ? The debate over this also has been long, and never 
will end. He was young, fond of power, impulsive, imagi- 
native, not bred to the repressive school of the service to 
which he had been appointed; he was practically alone in 
authority upon land, the dream of empire loomed large; 
he passionately loved his country and his share in making 
it; he knew California better than did those at home 
and such a preponderance of knowledge is always danger- 
ous to a subordinate. 

It is not probable that he took into council Carson or 
anyone save Lieutenant Gillespie and perhaps not fully 
Gillespie, who (according to the Memoirs) " was directed 
to act in concert with me." 

I saw the way opening clear before me. War with Mexico 
was inevitable; and a grand opportunity now presented itself 
to realize in their fullest extent the far-sighted views of Senator 
Benton, and make the Pacific Ocean the western boundary of 
the United States. I resolved to move forward on the oppor- 
tunity and return forthwith to the Sacramento valley in order 
to bring to bear all the influence I could command. 

Except myself, then and for nine months afterward, there 
was no officer of the army in California. The citizen party 
under my command was made up of picked men, and although 
small in number, constituted a formidable nucleus for frontier 
warfare, and many of its members commanded the confidence 
of the emigration. 

This decision was the first step in the conquest of Cali- 
fornia. 102 

His course he had about thought out when he was inter- 
rupted by a movement of alarm among the animals on the 

THE YEAR '46 253 

shore of the lake, about one hundred yards away. With- 
out notifying his men, who were exhausted and asleep, 
Fremont, pistol in hand, went down, through moonlight 
and forest shades, to investigate and this was a plucky 
and a reckless act. He returned, having found nothing 
alarming, to his fire one of the three around which the 
party were lying under their blankets. The camp was 
hedged on three sides by low cedars ; and scarcely had the 
captain turned in last of all, to invite sleep, when the adven- 
ture occurred which, for the next day or two, effectually 
interrupted those thoughts upon future conquest. 

Carson may tell the story, for it was Carson's quick ear 
which comprehended first. Had he been the one to hear the 
uneasiness of the mules, the succeeding attack might have 

Mr. Gillespie had brought the Colonel letters from home 
the first he had had since leaving the States the year before 
and he was up, and kept a large fire burning until after 
midnight ; the rest of us were tired out, and all went to sleep. 
This was the only night in all our travels, except the one night 
on the island in the Salt Lake, that we failed to keep guard; 
and as the men were so tired, and we expected no attack now 
that we had fourteen in the party, the Colonel did not like to 
ask it of them, but sat up late himself. Owens and I were 
sleeping together, and we were waked at the same time by the 
licks of the axe that killed our men. At first, I did not know 
it was that ; but I called to Basil, who was that side : " What's 
the matter there ? What's the fuss about ? " He never 
answered, for he was dead then, poor fellow and he never 
knew what killed him. His head had been cut in, in his sleep; 
the other groaned a little as he died. The Dela wares (we had 
four with us) were sleeping at that fire, and they sprang up 
as the Tlamaths charged them. One of them (named Crane) 
caught up a gun, which was unloaded ; but, although he could 
do no execution, he kept them at bay, fighting like a soldier, 
and did not give up until he was shot full of arrows, three 
entering his heart ; he died bravely. As soon as I had called 
out, I saw it was Indians in the camp, and I and Owens 


together cried out "Indians." There were no orders given; 
things went on too fast, and the Colonel had men with him 
that did not need to be told their duty. The Colonel and I, 
Maxwell, Owens, Godey and Stepp jumped together, we six, 
and ran to the assistance of our Delawares. I do n't know who 
fired and who did n't ; but I think it was Stepp's shot that 
killed the Tlamath chief; for it was at the crack of Stepp's 
gun that he fell. He had an English half-axe slung to his 
wrist by a cord, and there were forty arrows left in the quiver, 
the most beautiful and warlike arrows I ever saw. He must 
have been the bravest man among them, from the way he was 
armed, and judging by his cap. When the Tlamaths saw him 
fall, they ran; but we lay, every man with his rifle cocked, 
until daylight, expecting another attack. 103 

Basil Lajeunesse had been brained by the chief's axe; 
the half-breed Denny had been killed with arrows, as he 
lay ; Crane the Delaware, who had snatched up an unloaded 
rifle (some of the men, having cleaned their guns by dis- 
charging them, had carelessly omitted to reload them), 
with the butt endeavored to defend himself as he jumped 
from side to side, vainly dodging the arrows. He fell. Car- 
son's own rifle was useless, by reason of a broken cap tube 
(another piece of criminal negligence) ; he threw it aside, 
and with his pistol shot at the bold chief, who was rapidly 
pouring his arrows into the helpless Delaware. The ball 
only cut the half -axe from the red wrist. Maxwell fired, 
as the chief now dodged, and wounded him in the leg. The 
chief was about to plunge into cover (whence his men 
were delivering a storm of shafts), but the bullet of Stepp, 
the gunsmith, caught him, and brought him to earth. 

With their dead covered by blankets, with fires extin- 
guished and with blankets hung up to give shelter, the whites 
lay close and bided the next movement of the enemy. 

At daylight the whites might venture out. Carson seized 
the half -axe of the dead chief and in Indian revenge 
knocked his head to pieces with it. Sagundai, Delaware 



(From Revere s A Tour of Duty in California) 



(From the Emory Reports) 

THE YEAR '46 255 

chief, wounded slightly, scalped him. The arrows which 
Carson admired so much " were all headed with a lancet- 
like piece of iron or steel probably obtained from the 
Hudson Bay Company's traders on the Umpqua and 
were poisoned for about six inches. They could be driven 
that depth into a pine tree." 

The attack had been a true Indian surprise. Only a few 
days before, the expedition had divided with these very 
Klamaths a scanty supply of meat; and the dead chief 
was recognized, before disfigurement, as the man who had 
yesterday presented Lieutenant Gillespie with a salmon, and 
had shown him a ford. Fremont's reinforcement of the 
Gillespie party undoubtedly saved them from annihilation. 

By the tracks examined in the dawn, it was estimated that 
the attacking savages numbered some fifteen or twenty. As 
matter of habit, the Americans decided that the animosity 
should be laid to the influence of the British traders the 
Hudson Bay Company in particular. 

The three dead Basil Lajeunesse the Canadian, Crane 
the Delaware, Denny the breed were carried upon the 
pack mules for ten miles; and then, the enemy hovering 
near and the trail becoming bad by reason of the heavy 
timber, they were buried in a copse beside the Klamath 

The attack had occurred on the night of May 9. This 
day General Taylor had fought and won the battle of Resaca 
de la Palma; two days before, or on May 7, he had fought 
and won that initial struggle of the war, the battle of Palo 
Alto. But isolated here by Klamath Lake of the Pacific 
coast, Fremont knew naught ; and anyway, he and his men 
had plenty to do, fighting their own battles. 

The trail of Fremont and Gillespie and company back 
to the valley of the Sacramento was a succession of skir- 
mishes, and more than skirmishes. The Indians seemed sud- 
denly inflamed. The march of the reunited parties led 


around the lake. The Klamath village was assaulted, four- 
teen of the enemy killed at one stand, and the others put 
to flight so precipitously that they had no time to gather 
up their arrows, laid in a fan-shape, ready to be picked 
one by one from the ground, about each warrior. The 
village was burned. 

In the heart of the wood we came suddenly upon an Indian 
scout. He was drawing his arrow to the head as we came upon 
him, and Carson attempted to fire, but his rifle snapped; and 
as he swerved away the Indian was about to let his arrow 
go into him ; I fired, and in my haste to save Carson, failed to 
kill the Indian, but Sacramento, as I have said, was not afraid 
of anything, and I jumped him directly upon the Indian and 
threw him to the ground. His arrow went wild. Sagundai 
was right behind me, and as I passed over the Indian he threw 
himself from his horse and killed him with a blow on the 
head from his war-club. It was the work of a moment, but it 
was a narrow chance for Carson. The poisoned arrow would 
have gone through his body. 104 

" I owe my life to them two. The Colonel and Sacra- 
mento saved me," quoth Carson, afterwards. While: 
" By heaven, this is rough work ! " that night declared 
Gillespie, teeming with the incidents so foreign to his pre- 
vious experiences, upon a man-of-war. " I '11 take care to 
let them know in Washington about it." 

" Heaven does n't come in for much, about here, just 
now," answered Fremont, matter-of-fact; "and as for 
Washington, it will be long enough before we see it again ; 
time enough to forget about this." His second assertion 
was not without considerable common sense. 

The trail was resumed, for the Sacramento. The com- 
pany kept their advance covered and their flanks protected, 
and at night " forted " by falling trees. After a day of 
quiet, Maxwell and Archambeau rode ahead, to hunt, and 
their companions, following, passed a fresh bloody scalp 

THE YEAR '46 257 

stuck upon an arrow, in a trail. As it was an Indian scalp, 
more curiosity than alarm was felt. Curiosity was satisfied 
by the story when told. The two hunters had been met by 
a single Indian, coming up the path. Upon seeing them, he 
had halted, calmly disposed, in the grass, of some young 
crows which he was carrying in his quiver; and, like a 
Horatius holding the bridge, had promptly let fly an arrow 
at Maxwell. Maxwell flung himself from his saddle just 
in time; the shaft sped across it. After a lively duel, of 
two men with rifles and pistols against one man with bow 
and arrow, the audacious native was killed. His scalp was 
planted in the trail, as notice to friend and foe. 

Another adventure remained. By wisely circuiting a 
canon, instead of traversing it, the company escaped an 
ambush, but not another attack. The Indians boldly rushed 
out, determined to fight. They recoiled, and Carson, 
Godey, and a third of the whites charged on. One warrior, 
in a rock shelter whence he was plying his arrows, kept the 
whites dodging. Fremont continues to relate : 

He had spread his arrows on the ground and held some in his 
mouth, and drove back the men out of range for some 
moments, until Carson crept around to where he could get 
a good view of him and shot him through the heart. Carson 
gave the bow and arrows to Mr. Gillespie. 

The Indians ceased their harrying espionage, and on 
May 24 the company were encamped in the valley of the 
lower Sacramento. 

Now with the events immediately succeeding, important 
and stirring as these events were, we may not linger. But 
it may easily be comprehended that with the return into 
the valley, of this fiery Fremont, officer of the United States 
army, and this undaunted Gillespie, officer of the United 
States navy, and their armed Americans, both turmoil and 
distrust spread as spread the news. 

Alta California, and particularly that California between 


Los Angeles and San Francisco, where the chief seditions 
and the chief immigrations were housed, was divided into 
two camps : one portion of the resident native people 
favored American jurisdiction, another portion opposed it, 
preferring England or France. And there were the Mex- 
ican minority and the American settlers, as other ingredients 
of the boiling pot. 

The anti-American sentiment seemed to be gaining 
ground. Signed with the popular Mexican watchword, 
knightly in its ring if not always inspiring to knightly 
deeds, a banda or proclamation, headed " God and Liberty," 
had on the 3Oth of April, 1846, been issued from Monterey 
against the " multitude of foreigners abusing our local 
circumstances without having come with the requisites 
provided by law." 

Fremont located camp at the Buttes of the Sacramento, 
near to the juncture of the Bear and the Feather rivers, 
below the present town of Marysville. Here he awaited 
developments, but particularly the arrival of supplies from 
the American squadron, to which, lying in the bay of San 
Francisco, Lieutenant Gillespie had descended with a mes- 
sage. He must have hesitated, perplexed, and wondering 
whether war between the United States and Mexico had 
actually commenced, and to what length he was justified in 

The Indians of the Sacramento Valley assumed a threat- 
ening attitude, incited (the settlers were told) against immi- 
grants by the Mexican authorities. Fremont's camp was 
being made the rallying place of his fellow countrymen, and 
in their protection he took it upon himself to teach the 
still unsophisticated aborigines a wholesome fear of white 

Ere they could burn the wheat, now ripening, he sallied 
upon them, striking a blow for himself as well as a blow 
for the ranchers. 

THE YEAR '46 259 

I judged it expedient to take such precautionary measures as 
in my forward movement would leave no enemy behind to 
destroy the strength of my position by cutting off my supplies 
in cattle and break communication with the incoming emigrants. 

Little loth would be the camp, augmented by the choice 
spirits who had constantly been joining, to assume the 
offensive. The Indian rancherias up the valley were sur- 
prised, one after another, and the inhabitants (many, indeed, 
it is alleged, already in war paint) with the customary white 
impetuousness were driven headlong in flight. 

Rumors of projects by General Jose Castro, commanding 
general of the province, for the purpose of expelling, by 
force of arms, the distrusted gringos infesting the valley 
of the Sacramento, steadily gathered. Captain Fremont 
on June 8 moved his camp from the Buttes down to the 
vicinity of Sutter's Fort, which, under the doughty Swiss 
Bourbon-American Sutter, now in the face of the reports 
flying hither-thither had assumed a menacing aspect. 

June 10 Ezekiel Merritt, issuing forth with a dozen 
comrades from the Fremont camp if not by the Fremont 
connivance, deprived Lieutenant Francisco Arce, Castro 
subaltern, of 170 horses destined for the Castro reinforce- 
ment possibly for a Castro demonstration against the 
American intruders. This was the first voluntary act of 
war by the Anglo-Saxons in California. Word was left 
with Lieutenant Arce that if General Castro wished the 
horses, he might come and take them. 

The California government had proclaimed; the Amer- 
icans performed. Scarcely had the horses been stowed 
safely at Sutter's Fort, when Ezekiel Merritt, Dr. Robert 
Semple, John Grigsby (hard names for the Mexican 
language to master, as the bearers were hard nuts for the 
Mexican authorities to crack) with some thirty followers 
marched across westward, for the old mission of San Fran- 
cisco Solano, now the presidio of Sonora, north of San 


Francisco Bay. On the morning of June 14 they appeared 
before it, easily captured it, accepted the capitulation of the 
commandant General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (pre- 
viously friendly to the cause of independence), his brother, 
Don Salvador Vallejo; his secretary, Victor Prudon (a 
Swiss), and his son-in-law, the American, Jacob P. Leese; 
and with the munitions, horses, and the stimulation of con- 
siderable liquid refreshment, declared themselves in behalf 
of a revolution " to make California a free and independent 

On June 15, "they ran up a flag sufficiently significant 
of their intentions a white field, red border, with a grizzly 
bear eyeing a single star, which threw its light on the motto, 
' The Republic of California.' To this flag and its fortunes 
they pledged themselves in mutual confidence." 105 

On this day, June 15, 1846, at Washington was signed 
by the Secretary of State and the British minister the Ore- 
gon treaty, in which the parallel of forty-nine was extended 
as a national boundary from the Rockies to the Pacific. 
Three stars at once Oregon, Washington, Idaho were 
added to the flag. At the same time 16,000 Mormons, 
trekking westward, had crossed the Mississippi River, and 
the van had reached the Missouri at Council Bluffs, Iowa. 
In the Southwest 50,000 American volunteers from a popu- 
lace inflamed for service against Mexico had swarmed to 
the colors; the American arms under General Taylor had 
achieved abundant and brilliant successes on the lower Rio 
Grande; the war was in full blast; and at Fort Leaven- 
worth the celebrated Army of the West had assembled, 
under General Stephen Watts Kearny, soon to begin its 
unprecedented march across the plains, thence to seize New 
Mexico and by desert route from Santa Fe authoritatively 
to enter California. 

So the Bear flag flies over the rude fortress of Sonoma; 
the new commander, William B. Ide, installed, is preparing 

THE YEAR '46 261 

for issuance, on June 18, the proclamation of the revolu- 
tionists, bidding the inhabitants of the District of Sonoma 
to have no fear, and inviting all citizens " to repair to my 
camp at Sonoma, without delay, to assist us in establishing 
and perpetuating a republican government." The Sonoma 
prisoners the two Vallejos, Lieutenant Colonel Prudon, 
Jacob Leese have been received by Fremont and turned 
over to the custody of Sutter's Fort, where, as Leese records 
poignantly, " we pass'd the next day in the most aughful 
manner a reflecting on the cituation of our familys and 
property in the hands of such a desperate set of men " ; 
and Fremont himself, taking the decisive step, assumes con- 
trol of Sutter's Fort by placing over it the topographer, 
Edward Kern. At the same time he draws up his resigna- 
tion from the army, that he may release his Government 
from responsibility, and shortly after he starts with his 
force for Sonoma, to succor the eighteen men of Ide. 

The Fremont resignation, not yet, of course, forwarded 
to headquarters or accepted, was but precautionary " hedg- 
ing," and would not have saved him from court-martial 
or the Government from responsibility. However, he would 
rather be sacrificed for doing too much than for doing too 
little; and the men under him, Carson, Lucien Maxwell, 
Alex Godey, Dick Owens, and the Delawares, had been 
free rovers over-long to reflect much upon the consequences 
of actions. 

The Fremont company, largely augmented since their 
return a month previous, were irrevocably embarked upon 
the current of conquest; they had cast their fortunes with 
the revolution. From Sonoma they marched, 160 strong, 
for the San Rafael mission across the Golden Gate and up 
the bay from Yerba Buena which is today San Francisco. 
Already blood had been shed; for about a week before, 
or on June 19, two Americans of the Ide command, Fowler 
and Cowie, captured by Californian cavalry of the detach- 


ment of Captain Joachin de la Torre were " butchered with 
knives." The march by Fremont from Sonoma south to 
San Rafael, about twenty-five miles, was for the purpose 
of attacking the de la Torre forces 1 an event strongly 
desired by the now savage hearts of the backwoodsmen. 
At the mission was made the one blot upon the Carson 
escutcheon a blot extending, it is true, from the Fremont 
escutcheon. Across the bay from San Rafael was the point 
of San Pablo. While the Fremont company were at San 
Rafael waiting upon revenge, on June 28 

a boat with four strangers was seen approaching from San 
Pablo. This boat Kit Carson with a squad was sent to inter- 
cept. It landed at Point San Pedro, and three of the strangers 
having debarked, Carson and his men left their horses, ad- 
vanced, took careful aim, and shot them down. The victims 
proved to be Francisco and Ramon de Haro of San Francisco, 
and Jose de los Berreyesa, an aged ranchero of Santa Clara. 
An eye-witness of the affair, Jasper O'Farrell, stated in 1856 
that Carson asked Fremont whether he should make prisoners 
of the strangers, and that the lieutenant, waving his hand, 
replied, "I have no room for prisoners." 106 

This was not like Carson, trained though he had been 
in the exigencies of frontier warfare where no quarter 
was given nor expected. Fremont glosses over the circum- 
stance, laying it at the door of " my scouts, mainly Dela- 
wares " ; and Senator Benton, reporting in the Senate, 
merely says : " In return for the murder of Cowie and 
Fowler, three of de la Torre's men, being taken, were 
instantly shot." But Fremont's company were supposed to 
be aiding the cause of civilization, of " liberty, virtue, and 
literature," under " favor of Heaven " (as appealed the 
Bear flag proclamation), and this wanton killing, without 
accusation or any trial, never can be justified. In later 
years Carson would not have countenanced it. 

Now from the settlement of Sausalito below San Rafael, 

THE YEAR '46 263 

Captain Fremont with twelve of his best shots, including 
Carson, by means of a boat of the American trading ship 
Moscow (William D. Phelps, captain) crossed the Golden 
Gate straits for the Castillo of San Joachim. 

Pulling across the strait or avenue of water which leads in 
from the Gate we reached the Fort Point in the gray dawn of 
the morning and scrambled up the steep bank just in time to 
see several horsemen escaping at full speed toward Yerba 
Buena. We promptly spiked the guns fourteen nearly 
all long brass Spanish pieces. The work of spiking was ef- 
fectually done by Stepp, who was a gunsmith, and knew as 
well how to make a rifle as to use one. 107 

R'at tail files, like the boat, had been supplied by the enthu- 
siastic Captain Phelps. Whether Fremont was technically 
right in his support of the revolution may be debated; but 
the unanimity in the approval, by all his countrymen, of his 
acts is remarkable; he had the enthusiastic cooperation of 
his men, the open assistance of American merchants by land 
and by sea, and the discreetly covert commendation and 
good wishes of the naval officers on the coast. That any 
of the foreigners opposed was due only to their desire to 
accomplish the same conquest themselves ; and even a fac- 
tion of the Californians favored the American jurisdiction 
preferring it, however, imposed in a less " bear-like " 

But let us keep pace with events. Another Fourth of 
July has arrived, and Fremont and Kit Carson are at another 
banquet. But it is a far cry to Bent's Fort and the banquet 
of 1844; it is a far cry to the Fourth of 1845 intervening, 
the peaceful day at Washington for the one, at his New 
Mexican farm for the other. This Fourth of July, 1846, 
was spent at Sonoma, where " the day was celebrated by 
salutes and a ball in the evening." Here on this date and 
upon the following date, July 5, was organized the Cali- 


fornia Battalion of Mounted Riflemen, 224 men, Captain 
John C. Fremont, U. S. A., colonel commanding; Lieuten- 
ant Archibald H. Gillespie, U. S. N., major; company cap- 
tains, Richard Owens, Henry L. Ford, Granville P. Swift, 
John Grigsby, John Sears ; among the privates, William B. 
Ide, late commander of the Sonoma presidio, and so far as 
we know, Kit Carson himself. The organization was 

In the meantime, over the Oregon Trail has been toiling 
an increased emigration part for Oregon, part for Cali- 
fornia. The California trains include the party of Edwin 
Bryant, who will be alcalde of San Francisco, and who 
will write an entertaining book; arriving at Sutter's Fort, 
September i, he will be astonished to see sitting at the gate- 
way several foreigners, 

dressed in buckskin pantaloons and blue sailors' shirts with 
white stars worked on the collars. I inquired if Captain Sut- 
ter was in the fort? A very small man, with a peculiarly 
sharp red face and a most voluble tongue, gave the response. 
* * * He said in substance, that perhaps I was not aware 
of the great changes which had recently taken place in Cali- 
fornia; that the fort now belonged to the United States, and 
that Captain Sutter, although he was in the fort, had no con- 
trol over it. 108 

The California trains include also the company of James 
T. Reed and the Dormers, which after terrible experiences 
upon an untried road through the Great Basin, caught by 
the snows of the Sierra lose forty members. 

Leaving Fort Leavenworth June 26, in this July, 1846, 
over the Santa Fe Trail, " tracked with the bones of men 
and beasts," march in the panoply of war, following the 
flag, 1658 volunteer infantry and mounted riflemen, bound 
for Bent's Fort, Santa Fe, and California a route of 
more than 2,000 miles, half of which is through a hostile 
country . 

THE YEAR '46 265 

A Colonel's command, called an army, marches eight hun- 
dred miles beyond its base, its communication liable to be cut 
off by the slightest effort of the enemy mostly through a des- 
ert the whole distance almost totally destitute of resources, 
to conquer a territory of 250,000 square miles ; without a mili- 
tary chest, the people of this territory are declared citizens of 
the United States, and the invaders are thus debarred the rights 
of war to seize needful supplies; they arrive without food 
before the capital a city two hundred and forty years old, 
habitually garrisoned by regular troops! I much doubt if 
any officer of rank, but Stephen W. Kearny, would have under- 
taken the enterprise; or, if induced to do so, would have 
accomplished it successfully. 

This is the art of war as practiced in America. 109 

And in this July has been biding uncertainly, at Monterey, 
the American flagship Savannah; on board, Commodore 
John D. Sloat, commander of the Pacific squadron, who has 
hesitated in acting until he is assured of formal declaration 
of war. If Captain Fremont is precipitate, Commodore 
Sloat seems over-cautious ; nevertheless he is an older man, 
he understands that princes and republics alike are liable 
to the imputation of ingratitude, and that to annex Cali- 
fornia prematurely is a large order. Commodore Jones 
had made one error at Monterey; that error must not be 

At Mazatlan of the Mexican coast Sloat had learned of 
the battles by General Taylor, and of the blockade of Vera 
Cruz ; closely observed by the English fleet, also at Mazat- 
lan, he had set sail for Monterey. Arriving there July 2 
he learned of the operations of Fremont; and emboldened 
thereby and by additional news, brought through by Indians, 
of battles on the Rio Grande, and by evidences of British 
designs for a protectorate over California, on the morning 
of July 7 he landed at Monterey 250 men from the various 
vessels of his squadron ; at ten o'clock " the flag, in charge 
of Lieutenant (Edward) Higgins, was raised on the flag- 


staff of the Custom-House, and the Proclamation of Occu- 
pation was read by Purser (Rodman M.) Price, in Spanish 
and in English, before our own force and the assembled 
citizens of the place, from the porch of the Custom- 
House." 110 

Thus, upon July 7, 1846, was fair California formally 
and eternally annexed to the republic. On July 16 sailed 
into the harbor the British flagship Collingwood, eighty 
guns, Rear Admiral Sir George Seymour' sailed in nine 
days too late, having, it is claimed, been deceived in the 
course first laid from Mazatlan by Commodore Sloat. The 
American ships flew the recall for their shore parties and 
beat to quarters. But the British Admiral is accredited 
only with saying: 

" Sloat, if your flag was not flying on shore I should 
have hoisted mine there." 

Meanwhile, July 9, the same flag had been raised at San 
Francisco by Lieutenant Revere of the Portsmouth, and 
on the same date had superseded the Bear flag at Sonoma. 
July 10, at Sutter's Fort Captain (or Colonel) Fremont 
received word and flag from Captain Montgomery of the 
Portsmouth, and at sunrise of July n at Sutter's Fort 
also breaks out, to the salute of twenty-one guns, the stars 
and stripes. 

The Bear war, merged with a movement much weightier 
in its momentum, henceforth ceased. General Castro real- 
ized that this was war in earnest; and as he fell back before 
the sudden combination of land and sea forces, Fremont, 
deeming that under the new authorities and the new acces- 
sions the Sacramento Valley could stand alone, led his 
Rough Riders toward Monterey. 

On the tenth of July, the whole northern district, including 
the Bay of San Francisco, was in possession of the United 
States, and the principal points garrisoned by our troops. 
All the Americans, and most of the foreigners, took up arms, 

THE YEAR '46 267 

and volunteered en masse to defend the American flag, which 
they regarded as the symbol of liberty, emancipation, and re- 
generation. Proceeding to the principal posts they offered 
themselves to the American officers as volunteers, without 
pay or emolument, each man taking with him his trusty rifle 
and accoutrements. It was a touching evidence of the influ- 
ence of our free democratic institutions, to see these rough 
old trappers, whose lives had been passed with the Indians 
and wild beasts, rally around the flag of their native land, 
to which they owed nothing but the accident of birth, and that 
abiding love of liberty and independence which is inherent in 
our people. Nor was the devotion of the settlers from the old 
world less worthy of admiration. They had sought in the far- 
off wilderness a refuge from oppression, and found that they 
had fallen under a worse despotism than they had left at home. 
When therefore a fair opportunity occurred for dealing a 
death-blow to the dominion of the mock republic of Mexico, 
these sons of Europe flew to arms with an enthusiasm un- 
known to the reluctant tools of tyrants. We could do no 
more than to select the most youthful and hardy of these gal- 
lant men, who were hastily organized into a battalion under 
Captain (since Colonel) Fremont, and marched eagerly to 
meet the enemy in the field. Many of these new recruits had 
withheld their support from the " Bear Party," which did not 
seem to them to possess stability. 111 

With Fremont went Kit Carson, soon by fate to be 
assigned, as customary, an individual part in nation making. 


' '/CAPTAIN FREMONT and his armed band, with 
V> Lieut. Gillespie of the marine corps, arrived last 
evening from their pursuit of Gen. Castro." So chroni- 
cles, July 20, 1846, the Reverend Walter Colton, chaplain 
of the frigate Congress, newly anchored in the bay at 

They are two hundred strong, all well mounted, and have 
some three hundred extra head of horses in their train. They 
defiled, two abreast, through the principal street of the town. 
The ground seemed to tremble under their heavy tramp. The 
citizens glanced at them through their grated windows. Their 
rifles, revolving pistols, and long knives, glittered over the 
dusky buckskin which enveloped their sinewy limbs, while their 
untrimmed locks, flowing out from under their foraging caps, 
and their black beards, with white teeth glittering through, 
gave them a wild, savage aspect. They encamped in the skirts 
of the woods which overhang the town. The blaze of their 
watch-fires, as night came on, threw its quivering light into 
the forest glades and far out at sea. Their sentinels were 
posted at every exposed point; they sleep in their blankets 
under the trees, with their arms at their side, ready for the 
signal shot or stir of the crackling leaf. 112 

Thus Fremont and his men returned in force to Mon- 
terey, whence they had retired, although sullenly, four 
months previous, before this same Don Jose Castro. He 
as commanding general, must now himself retire southward, 
soon to meet, in an alliance of mutual protection, with the 
Governor, Don Pio Pico, at Los Angeles, where six months 
later the American leader would appear with his battalion. 



The re-entry into Monterey and civilization of the famous 
explorer and his men attracted the attention that today 
is attracted by a Wild West parade; for their deeds had 
preceded them. 

The English admiral was still at Monterey * * * and 
looked on with his officers with much interest. It was, in- 
deed, a novel and interesting sight the command, number- 
ing two or three hundred men, marching in a square, within 
which was the cattle which they were driving for their sub- 
sistence. They were mostly clothed in buckskin, and armed 
with Hawkins rifles. The individuality of each man was very 
remarkable. When they dismounted, their first care was their 
rifles. Fremont * * * was the conspicuous figure. Kit 
Carson and the Indians accompanying him were the objects of 
much attention. 113 

It was a unique experience for many of the Fremont 
battalion. Few in the original expedition ever had seen 
the ocean "a great prairie without a single tree." In 
the interval while Fremont was explaining to the alarmed 
Commodore Sloat that he had not been acting under writ- 
ten orders from Washington, and that he had not been 
notified of the declaration of war, his riflemen more or 
less cautiously ventured among the ships. Meanwhile the 
report by Fremont had thrown Commodore Sloat into a 
wretched state. Now, having climbed so far, he feared a) 
fall. Pending the announcement of formal declaration of 
war between the United States and Mexico, he declared that 
he would do nothing more ; and finally he cut the Gordian 
knot by resigning command and responsibility into the 
hands of Commodore Stockton of the Congress and by 
starting for home on the plea of ill health. Commodore 
Robert F. Stockton, a Princeton man, with the Princeton 
spirit, courted the command and the responsibilities, gladly 
assumed them; immediately, or on July 24, he appointed 
Fremont a major, Lieutenant Gillespie a captain, and en- 


rolled the woodsmen as that unique organization, the Navy 
Battalion of Mounted Riflemen! 

But they suffered for the distinction. On July 27, in 
their new service, they sailed on the sloop of war Cyane, 
Commander Dupont, for San Diego, 400 miles by land and 
more by sea. Amused eyes watched them embark, and 
the Reverend Mr. Colton took a malicious pleasure in soon 
making the accurate prophecy : " The wind is fresh, they 
are by this time cleverly sea-sick, and lying about the deck 
in a spirit of resignation that would satisfy the non- 
resistant principles of a Quaker. Two or three resolute old 
women might tumble the whole lot of them into the sea." 

It is safe to say that Kit Carson, for one, would willingly 
have exchanged his misery in the scuppers for another dead 
mule rampart, and siege by the Comanches, on the plains. 

By a march from San Diego, Los Angeles was taken with- 
out bloodshed; the combined forces of Stockton and Fre- 
mont entered the pueblo; Governor Don Pio Pico and 
Commandante-General Jose Castro retired, and Commodore 
Stockton issued, on August 17, a proclamation, declaring 
the country a territory of the United States. He appointed 
himself governor of California, Major Fremont military 
governor, and Captain Gillespie commandant of the South- 
ern District, with headquarters at Los Angeles; and he 
sailed away. 

Kit Carson set out, with his friend, Lucien Maxwell, 
overland with the news for Washington; and across the 
desert from Santa Fe was meanwhile approaching the real 
governor of California, General Stephen Watts Kearny, 
leading the remnants of his Army of the West. 

This dispatch duty to which Carson was assigned seems 
to have been a personal tribute to his abilities. It was 
awarded to him to be an achievement and a privilege in one. 
He would, if the plan were carried out, have the pleasure 
and the honor of announcing direct to the President the 


alleged conquest of California, and en route he would see 
wife and friends at Taos. " Going off at the head of his 
own party, with carte blanche for expenses and the 
prospect of novel pleasure and honor at the end, was a 
culminating point in Carson's life," adds Fremont. 

Thus far rank had passed Kit Carson by. Godey was a 
lieutenant, Talbot was lieutenant and adjutant, Dick Owens 
was a captain, all in the California Battalion service. There- 
fore it is with real satisfaction that we witness, on Sep- 
tember 15, 1846, Carson, as lieutenant upon special service, 
starting out with an escort of fifteen men (six being Dela- 
wares) and fifty horses, from Los Angeles for Washing- 
ton, and engaged to make the round trip in 120 days! It 
is the first of three round trips across the desert, carrying 
government dispatches. This time he travels from Cali- 
fornia almost to Santa Fe and back; within a few months 
he must travel from California to Washington and back 
to California; and soon thereafter he must travel from 
California to Washington, and back to New Mexico. The 
aggregate of the three journeys, each through perilous ter- 
ritory, was 16,000 miles, more than half being by horse or 
mule back. 

This route of 1846 was not unknown to him, for he had 
traversed the same country, between Los Angeles and Taos, 
in 1829 and 1830 with Ewing Young; and there now was a 
traders' trail, slight, to be sure, from Santa Fe to San 
Diego by the Gila and Yuma. But the Apaches and hostile 
Mexicans still infested the desert. 

Almost upon the same date that Carson set out upon his 
ride, or upon the 25th of September, from ancient Santa Fe, 
which now also flew the American flag, General Stephen 
Watts Kearny set out for the coast. Santa Fe had been 
captured without a fight; New Mexico had been annexed; 
Charles Bent was governor of the Territory; and with his 
300 men " the Horse-Chief of the Long Knives " (as he 


was known among the plains Indians) proposed to complete 
the subjugation of California, a thousand miles away. 
Moreover, 448 Mormons, intercepted in their pilgrimage 
from Nauvoo, and enlisted as a separate battalion, infan- 
try, were expected to follow their services having been 
promised to the Government under Lieutenant Colonel 
Philip St. George Cooke. 

Thomas Fitzpatrick guided the Kearny column; Antoine 
Robidoux was interpreter; and the topographer was J. M. 
Stanley, the beaver-days artist. 

On the Rio Grande del Norte, ten miles below Socorro, 
New Mexico, the Kit Carson party, hastening east, and the 
General Kearny column, toiling west, met. The dragoons 
were eleven days out of Santa Fe and had covered 150 miles. 
The Carson company were twenty-six days out of Los 
Angeles and had covered 800 miles. They had worn out 
thirty-four mules, but they were on schedule time. Carson 
was not entirely unprepared for the meeting, which we may 
best describe in the words of Captain Abraham Johnston, 
who rode to his death at San Pasqual. 

October 6 Marched at 9, after having great trouble in get- 
ting some ox carts from the Mexicans; after marching about 
three miles, we met Kit Carson, direct on express from Cali- 
fornia, with a mail of public letters for Washington; he in- 
forms us that Colonel Fremont is probably civil and military 
governor of California, and that about forty days since, Com- 
modore Stockton, with the naval force, and Colonel Fremont, 
acting in concert, commenced to revolutionize that country, 
and place it under the American flag; that, in about ten days, 
their work was done, and Carson, having received the rank 
of lieutenant, was dispatched across the country by the Gila, 
with a party to carry the mail; the general told him that he 
had just passed over the country which we were to traverse, 
and he wanted him to go back with him as a guide ; he replied 
that he had pledged himself to go to Washington, and he could 
not think of not fulfilling his promise. The general told him 
he would relieve him of all responsibility, and place the mail 


in the hands of a safe person, to carry it on; he finally con- 
sented, and turned his face to the west again, just as he was 
on the eve of entering the settlements, after his arduous trip, 
and when he had set his hopes on seeing his family. It requires 
a brave man to give up his private feelings thus for the public 
good; but Carson is one such! honor to him for it! Carson 
left California with fifteen men ; among them six Delaware 
Indians faithful fellows. They had fifty animals, most of 
which they left on the road, or traded with the Apaches, giving 
two for one; they were not aware of the presence of 
the American troops in New Mexico; they counted upon 
feeling their way along, and in case the Mexicans were hostile, 
they meant to start a new outfit, and run across the country. 
When they came to the Copper-mine Apaches, they first 
learned that an American general had possession of the ter- 
ritory of New Mexico. The Apaches were very anxious to be 
friendly with the Americans, and received them very cordially, 
much to their surprise. 114 

Thomas Fitzpatrick turned east, for Washington, with 
the precious mail ; Kit Carson turned west, for California 
again, with the dragoons. The act brings tribute not only 
from Captain Johnston, but from Colonel Cooke. " That 
was no common sacrifice to duty." 

However, Carson was not persuaded. He testifies that 
he was not persuaded, but obeyed orders. " And I guided 
him through, but with great hesitation, and had prepared 
everything to escape in the night before they started, and 
made known my intention to Maxwell, who urged me not 
to do so." 115 All in all, the occasion was one of much 
perplexity for Lieutenant Kit Carson. The conflict of 
authority now, and to come, perplexed men more expe- 
rienced than he. He was fortunate, in his simplicity and 
honesty, to get off as easily as he did ; for in Stephen Watts 
Kearny he met the superior officer, a soldier from the 
ground up, and a man with an eye of blue colder than that 
in the eye of the Fremont whom he outranked. 

Reduced after hearing that California was pacified, the 


column proceeded : 100 enlisted men, six eight-mule wagons, 
two howitzers, with a flag strange to the desert solitudes. 
Kit Carson dryly informed them that at the rate they were 
traveling they would not get to Los Angeles in four months ! 

Within three days after leaving camp below Socorro, 
the six wagons had to be dismissed, and packsaddles sub- 
stituted. To Captain Cooke and his luckless Mormons 
fell the uncertain privilege of making the first wagon road 
through the farthest Southwest Santa Fe to southern 

For a week the Kearny trail descended along the Rio 
del Norte; 230 miles below Santa Fe, under Carson's 
guidance, it diverged to the west and entered the Mimbres 
country. Thence the dragoon column crossed, October 20, 
to the head of the Gila, which was to be followed to its 
mouth at the Colorado, 600 miles away. 

Dragging the constantly disabled howitzers, with mules 
continually failing, the men without shoes, partially naked, 
and exposed to night temperatures below freezing, and days 
of thirst, hunger, and burning sun, the First Dragoons, C 
and K Companies, plodded along the trail first traversed by 
the beaver-hunting Patties in 1827; afterward in 1830 by 
the homeward returning Ewing Young and Kit Carson, his 
assistant, and in 1831 by the trading party of Davy Jackson, 
the mountain man, and William H. Warner, who became 
one of the first American ranchers of California. 

Lieutenant Carson, the guide, was invaluable; the route 
w r as the one by which he had met the column, and so he 
knew its peculiarities. Every day Lieutenant W. H. Emory, 
of the topographical corps, recorded his meteorological 
observations, wrote up his diary; every day the fated Cap- 
tain Abraham Johnston, Kearny's aide-de-camp, maintained 
the official journal. If the march was hard, it was not unin- 
teresting, for the many ancient ruins still awaited the depre- 
dations of the vandal. The Indians were uniformly friendly, 


viewing the Americans as allies against the hated Spanish, 
and as good customers who paid promptly for what they 
obtained. 116 

November 22 the juncture of the Gila and the Colorado 
was just ahead. 

The day was warm, the dust oppressive, and the march, twen- 
ty-two miles, very long for our jaded and ill-fed brutes. The 
general's horse gave out, and he was obliged to mount his mule. 

Most of the men were on foot, and a small party, composed 
chiefly of the general and staff, were a long way ahead of the 
straggling column, when, as we approached the end of our 
day's journey, every man was straightened in his saddle by 
our suddenly falling on a camp, which, from the trail, we 
estimated at 1,000 men, who must have left that morning. 
Speculation was rife, but we all soon settled down to the opin- 
ion that it was Central Castro and his troops; that he had 
succeeded in recruiting an army in Sonora, and was now on 
his return to California. Carson expressed the belief that he 
must be only ten miles below, at the crossing. Our force con- 
sisted only of no men. The general decided we were too 
few to be attacked, and must be the aggressive party, and if 
Castro's camp could be found, that he would attack it the 
moment night set in, and beat them before it was light enough 
to discover our force. 117 

Lieutenant Emory and squad reconnoitered ; horses were 
heard neighing, and a fire was seen blazing. But the no 
did not attack the fancied 1,000, for the camp was found 
to consist of Mexican traders, conveying some 500 horses 
from California. 

The chief of the party, a tall, venerable looking man, rep- 
resented himself to be a poor employe of several rich men 
engaged in supplying the Sonora market with horses. We sub- 
sequently learned that he was no less a personage than Jose 
Maria Leguna, a colonel in the Mexican service. 118 

The next day, however, was marked by a more porten- 
tous meeting, which resulted in the capture of a Mexican 


jogging as upon a journey. Taken to the tent of General 
Kearny, he was found to be carrying California mail. 

Among the letters was one addressed to General Jose Castro 
at Altar, one to Antonio Castro, and others to men of note in 
Sonora. * * * We ascertained from them that a counter 
revolution had taken place in California, that the Americans 
were expelled from Santa Barbara, Puebla de los Angeles, 
and other places, and that Robideaux, the brother of our 
interpreter, who had been appointed alcalde by the Americans, 
was a prisoner in jail. They all spoke exultingly of having 
thrown off " the detestable Anglo- Yankee yoke," and con- 
gratulated themselves that the tri-color once more floated in 
California. 119 

Here was news, indeed, for an invading column of no 
men, without a base, and the desert behind. The date of the 
letters was October 15. What had been occurring in the 
meantime? The no pushed on to the Colorado, and ten 
miles below the mouth of the Gila crossed by a ford known 
to Carson into the sandy, dry- wash Colorado Desert of 
southern California. 

This last of the desert fornadas was begun on November 
25. The distance was about ninety-one miles. The wild 
horses seized from the Mexican " traders " were soon 
tamed, and sank and died. On November 30 the men were 
inspected. " Poor fellows ! They are well nigh naked - 
some of them barefoot' a sorry looking set. A dandy 
would think that, in those swarthy, sunburnt faces, a lover 
of his country will see no signs of quailing. They will be 
ready for their hour when it comes." And the hour was at 

In the face of high, cold winds and hostile surroundings, 
salty grass and water, deep sand, hot days and numbing 
nights, the column toiled on to the foothills of the other 
edge, and with one horse and a few worn mules, on Decem- 
ber 2, arrived at the green valley of the Agua Caliente, where 


was situated the ranch of Warner, the American. San 
Diego was now but sixty miles southwest; Los Angeles 
some 100 miles northwest. The trail through Warner's 
rancho was the Sonora Trail, and General Kearny, thus 
informed, might congratulate himself that he was blocking 
Mexican traffic between Sonora and Southern California 
points. That evening Lieutenant J. W. Davidson, with Kit 
Carson as guide and with twenty-five men, rode fifteen miles 
and despoiled a herd of unbroken horses and mules held 
for the command of General Flores. 

By the English rancher, Senor Stokes, a letter was sent 
on to Commodore Stockton, who was reported as still in 
possession of San Diego. The commodore was apprised 
of the arrival of the Kearny dragoons, and asked to open 
communication " as quickly as possible." On December 4 
the march for San Diego was resumed. The weather was 
murky and cold, with an all-day rain. Little definite infor- 
mation had been gained as to the state of the country 
ahead, except that everything between San Diego and Santa 
Barbara was in the hands of the " country people." 

What was the situation in California since Kit Carson 
and his fifteen men had departed, September 15, to carry 
to Washington the word that Fremont and Stockton had 
" pacified " the coast ? In August, Castro, the inefficient, 
complaining that he was unable to gather more than " one 
hundred men, badly armed and worse supplied," and Gov- 
ernor Pico, his colleague, had delivered a farewell procla- 
mation and fled together over the Sonora road, not to return 
until 1848. But scarcely had the Kit Carson command 
spurred forth to bear their tidings east, when the chafing 
Mexican citizenship squirmed into renewed life. 

This was due in part to Archibald H. Gillespie, formerly 
lieutenant in the marines, but at that time captain in the 
California Battalion, and as commandant of the southern 
district of California, stationed with a company of forty men 


at the Pueblo de los Angeles. " A man of Fremont ideas," 
he was without the Fremont finesse ; instead of conciliating 
the people, he had tactlessly enforced his orders. Conse- 
quently, on September 24, he had waked up to find a rebel- 
lion in full flower, the head gardeners being General Jose 
Maria Flores, Colonel Jose Antonio Carrillo and Captain 
Andres Pico, former Castro officers. The small American 
garrison of the town yielded perforce, and on October 4 
they marched, with the doubtful honors of the defeated, 
to embark at San Pedro (Los Angeles' port) and sail for 

From Santa Barbara the hard-fighting young Washing- 
tonian, Theodore Talbot, sergeant major and first lieutenant, 
had cut his way with his squad to the hills ; thence, smoked 
out by fire in the brush, they had made retreat for Monterey. 
From San Diego the redoubtable Ezekiel Merritt and his 
little command of hunters had abruptly sought the incongru- 
ous sanctum of a whale ship in the bay. Commodore (who 
was also Governor) Robert Stockton was at San Francisco ; 
Lieutenant Colonel and Military Governor John C. Fremont 
had been in the valley of the Sacramento, bear hunting and 
recruiting, unsuccessfully, for a Stockton descent upon the 
western coast of Mexico and a conquering march inland to 
the City of Mexico. A hurried message from the commo- 
dore had recalled him to San Francisco, and a boat 
squadron from the ships had met him at the head of Suisun 
Bay to hasten him on. 

With the California Battalion (428 men, including 
Indians and servants, says Lieutenant Edwin Bryant, the 
newly arrived emigrant) now augmented by three compa- 
nies of emigrants, a party of Walla Walla Indians and two 
pieces of artillery, on November 30 Major Fremont, soon 
promoted to a lieutenant-colonelcy, had set out from the 
neighborhood of his first campaign, the mission of San Juan 
Bautista, under Gavilan Peak, to retake Los Angeles. Com- 


modore Stockton moved to San Diego, which he found 
closely beleaguered by California horsemen. 

In the midst of such alarms the little battalion of Kearny's 
First Dragoons, piloted by Kit Carson himself presumed 
to be in Washington arrived from their long desert jour- 
ney. December 3 Commodore Stockton, seaman turned land 
commander, and chafing at the mobile enemy, in his head- 
quarters in San Diego received at the hand of the merry- 
faced Sefior Stokes the tidings that a detachment of troops 
from New Mexico were as far as Warner's rancho; and 
that " by orders from the President of the United States," 
a new commander in chief was near. 


WE slept till morning." In these, the last penned 
words of Captain Johnston, is something prophetic 
and comforting. His journal reads: 

December 4 Marched at 9, and took the route for San 
Diego, to communicate with the naval forces and to establish 
our depot, not knowing yet in what state we would find the 
country. Marched 15 miles in a rain, cold and disagreeable, 
and encamped at St. Isabella, a former ranch of San Diego 
mission, now, by hook or by crook, in the possession of an 
Englishman named Stokes; here hospitality was held out to 
us Stokes having gone to San Diego. We ate heartily of 
stewed and roast mutton and tortillas. We heard of a party of 
Californians, of 80 men, encamped at a distance from this; 
but the informant varied 1 6 to 30 miles in his accounts, ren- 
dering it too uncertain to make a dash in a dark, stormy night ; 
so we slept till morning. 120 

Lieutenant Emory must continue the journal. 

December 5 A cold rainy day, and the naked Indians of 
the rancheria gathered about our fires. We marched from the 
rancheria of San Isabel to that of Santa Maria. [This was 
another of the Stokes ranches.] On the way we met Capt. 
Gillespie, Lieutenant Beale, and Midshipman Duncan of the 
navy, with a party of thirty-five men sent from San Diego 
with a dispatch for Gen. Kearny. We arrived at the rancheria 
after dark, where we heard that the enemy was in force nine 
miles distant, and not finding any grass about the rancheria, 
we pushed on and encamped in a canon two miles below. 121 

The day had been so murky that little of the country was 
visible, and any movements of the reported enemy were 



concealed. The country hereabouts is rolling, the sparsely 
timbered but brushy southern California hills undulating 
monotonously. The Kearny dragoons, worn by their desert 
march of 900 miles and more, poorly mounted on untrained 
horses and fagged-out mules, were at great disadvantage as 
opposed to the native cavalry, superbly mounted and 
acquainted with all the trails. 

Bttt Gillespie was burning for revenge to counterbalance 
his discomfiture at Los Angeles. He made light of the Cali- 
fornia valor. So did even Kit Carson, who, in common 
with other mountain men of the Southwest, thought little 
of Latin courage. After their easy conquest of New Mex- 
ico, when the march from Bent's Fort to Santa Fe, the 
capital, had been practically undisputed, General Kearny 
and his officers and men also were inclined to dismiss the 
Calif ornians curtly. 

Influenced by the contempt of Gillespie and Carson, and 
not realizing that here the fight was with free Calif ornians 
accustomed to more initiative than the New Mexicans, Gen- 
eral Kearny's council decided to push on for San Diego, 
and to attack the enemy if they were opposed. In this 
plan was sound military sense. Boldness would win a way, 
whereas hesitancy might result in the little force being shut 
off from the sea and all supplies, and, by a constantly increas- 
ing foe, confined helplessly inland while their chances grew 

So, in the night of December 5, through the darkness 
from the camp 

a party under Lieut. Hammond was sent to reconnoiter the 
enemy, reported to be near at hand. By some accident the 
party was discovered, and the enemy placed on the qui vive. 
We were now on the main road to San Diego, all the "by- 
ways " being in our rear, and it was therefore deemed neces- 
sary to attack the enemy, and force a passage. About 2 
o'clock, a. m., the call to horse was sounded, 122 


San Diego was forty miles distant; the Calif ornians were 
between. " I then determined," reports General Kearny, 
" that I would march for and attack them by break of day." 

With the advance guard of twelve under Captain John- 
ston was Kit Carson, scout ; behind this advance guard rode 
the general himself, with lieutenants Emory and Warner 
and four enlisted men. Upon this little detachment 
devolved the brunt of the first onslaught. 

The Calif ornians under Captain Andres Pico, brother of 
Don Pio Pico, the late governor, were encamped comfort- 
ably at the small Indian village of San Pasqual (Pascual), 
seven miles ahead, and thereby about thirty miles from 
San Diego. 123 At dawn the advance guard of the Ameri- 
cans, with the general and staff close following, from a mile 
away sighted the fires, which " shone brightly." The gen- 
eral himself now " ordered a trot, then a charge, and soon 
we found ourselves engaged in a hand to hand conflict with 
a largely superior force." 

Captain Andres Pico, ignorant of the numbers of the 
invaders, as the invaders likewise had been ignorant of his 
numbers, upon learning of their approach by way of War- 
ner's ranch, had planned not to oppose at once, but to 
reconnoiter until he had drawn them to ground of his own 
choosing. When the advance guard of twenty men (for 
the general and his escort joined the Johnston command) 
charged, as the general states, " furiously," downhill upon 
the pickets, the latter, vaulting to ready horse and clutching 
bridle, spurred for the main camp. The twenty Americans 
pursued hard down the hill into the village. Kit Carson's 
horse stumbled and threw him headlong, shattering his rifle 
at the grasp. At the same moment the Pico force, aston- 
ished by the rash valor of the few, and pausing to see if 
there was a large support behind, in their saddles received 
the charging dragoons with a volley from carbine, escopeta 
and pistol, killing Captain Johnston and a dragoon. 


Carson, lying still while his comrades rode over him, 
staggered up unharmed, and, seeing the dead dragoon near, 
grabbed carbine and cartridge box, caught a horse, 
remounted and hastened for the fray. In the village and just 
beyond the Calif ornians were now standing their ground. 
Cheered on by Captain Ben Moore, down thundered the fifty 
men of the support, and the Californians gave way. Captain 
Moore on his white horse led in pursuit; the Calif ornian 
horses easily distanced the dragoon horses, and the dragoon 
horses distanced the dragoon mules. Thus the pursuit 
strung out over half a mile of road, when, quickly grasping 
the advantage, the Parthian Californians rallied, and turned 
compact. They were eighty or more (official reports place 
the number at 160), and they were enabled now to take the 
dragoons, little squad by squad. 

Here the lance, wielded from horses as agile as wasps, 
proved its worth. Against these nine- foot staves the saber 
and the clubbed carbine, swung from fagged and stub- 
born animals (the mule is always badly bitted and badly 
dispositioned for a cavalry fight), were totally ineffectual. 

Conspicuous on his white horse, Captain Moore was 
lanced to death; Lieutenant Hammond was lanced so that 
he died soon after; General Kearny was wounded twice 
and would have been thrust through and through had not 
Lieutenant Emory stopped his assailant by a lucky pistol 
ball ; Lieutenant Warner was lanced in three places, Captain 
Gillespie in three places, Captain Gibson, and even the vet- 
eran trader, Antoine Robidoux, likewise were w r ounded. Of 
enlisted men were killed two sergeants, two corporals, ten 
privates of the dragoons; a private of the Gibson company 
of volunteers and an employee in the topographical service ; 
wounded, one sergeant, one " bugleman," nine privates of 
the dragoons. Total, eighteen killed ; fifteen wounded of 
the latter " many surviving from two to ten lance wounds, 
most of them when unhorsed and incapable of resistance." 


The howitzers arriving on the gallop, the Calif ornians 
fled. When the pieces were being unlimbered the span of 
mules drawing one ran off with it into the midst of the 
retreating enemy, but fortunately the Pico force did not try 
to make use of it. 

Such was the battle of San Pasqual, thirty miles north- 
east of San Diego, fought at break of day, December 6, 
1846, and resulting in the discomfiture of the American 
regular dragoons and the vindication of the Calif ornian 
irregular cavalry. 

The killed and wounded (General Kearny reports that 
six Calif ornians also were left on the field) were being 
gathered, when, records Emory: 

a large body of horsemen were seen in our rear and fears 
were entertained lest Major Swords and the baggage should fall 
into their hands. The general directed me to take a party of 
men and go back for Major Swords and his party. We met 
at the foot of the first hill, a mile in rear of the enemy's first 
position. Returning, I scoured the village to look for the dead 
and wounded. The first object which met my eye was the 
manly figure of Capt. Johnston. He was perfectly lifeless, 
a ball having passed directly through the center of his head. 
The work of plundering the dead had already commenced; 
his watch was gone, nothing being left of it but a fragment of 
the gold chain by which it was suspended from his neck. By 
my directions Sergeant Falls and four men took charge of the 
body and carried it into camp. Captain Johnston and one 
dragoon were the only persons either killed or wounded on 
our side in the fight by firearms. 

It was found that the mules were not strong enough to 
transport the dead to San Diego; and in order to save the 
bodies from further plundering the American dead were 
buried at night, to the sound of the howling of coyotes, 
under a willow at the east of the battle field camp. 

Before allowing his injuries to be dressed the general 
fainted. Captain H. S. Turner, as senior officer left, 


assumed the command. The surgeon of the column, Dr. 
J. S. Griffin, was occupied until late afternoon in stanching 
the many lance wounds of the rank and file. A sorry sight 
was the bloody camp. " Provisions were exhausted, horses 
dead, mules on their last legs, men, reduced to one-third of 
their number, were ragged, worn and emaciated." So 
records Lieutenant Emory. Ambulances were lacking, and 
soon after the fight Lieutenant Godey, with three others, 
was sent to make his way, with best mountain-man skill, 
through byways to San Diego for wheeled vehicles. Already 
the English ranchero, Stokes, was nearing there, posthaste, 
with an excited tale of the fight. 

The dragoon camp was unmolested throughout the day; 
the night settled cold and damp from the previous rains, and 
" the ground, covered with rocks and cacti, made it difficult 
to get a smooth place to rest, even for the wounded * * * 
and notwithstanding our excessive fatigues of the day and 
night previous, sleep was impossible." December 7, says 

dawned on the most tattered and ill-fed detachment of men 
that ever the United States mustered under her colors. The 
enemy's pickets and a portion of his force were seen in front. 
The sick, by the indefatigable exertions of Dr. Griffin, were 
doing well, and the general enabled to mount his horse. The 
order to march was given, and we moved off to offer the enemy 
battle, accompanied by our wounded, and the whole of our 
packs. The ambulances grated on the ground, and the suffer- 
ings of the wounded were very distressing. We had made for 
them the most comfortable conveyance we could, and such as 
it was, we were indebted principally to the ingenuity of the 
three remaining mountain men of the party, Peterson, Lon- 
deau, and Perrot. The fourth, the brave Francois Menard, had 
lost his life in the fight of the day before. 

Kit Carson, with his usual fortune, had come out of the 
fight practically unscathed. 


The slow column moved on the wounded and the 
packs in the center. Upon the hills about hovered the 
lancers of the Calif ornians, constantly threatening, but ever 
yielding the advance* In about nine miles was attained the 
rancho San Bernardo. Here the column commandeered 
water for the animals and chickens for the men ; but there 
was no grass, and the march must turn aside, " driving 
many cattle before us," for the rich San Bernardo River 
bottoms, south. 

We had scarcely left the house and proceeded more than a 
mile, when a cloud of cavalry debouched from the hills in 
our rear, and a portion of them dashed at full speed to occupy 
a hill which we must pass, while the remainder threatened our 
rear. Thirty or forty of them got possession of the hill, and 
it was necessary to drive them from it. This was accomplished 
by a small party of six or eight, upon whom the Californians 
discharged their fire; and strange to say, not one of our men 
fell. The capture of the hill was then but the work of a 
moment, and when we reached the crest, the Californians had 
mounted their horses and were in full flight. We did not lose 
a man in the skirmish, but they had several badly wounded. 
By this movement we lost our cattle, and were convinced that 
if we attempted any further progress with the ambulances we 
must lose our sick and our packs. 

The tactics of Captain Pico were apparent: the Ameri- 
cans must permit themselves to be menaced from higher 
ground, or must take the hill and lose their cattle ; they now 
must occupy the hill and cease their advance, or else be 
flanked again and again until they lost all their packs and 
probably their wounded, too. General Kearny decided to 
occupy the hill until the wounded were so improved as to 
require less attention from the able-bodied. 

The night of December 7 was spent upon the hill. One 
hundred more Californians were on their way from Los 
Angeles to reinforce the besiegers, but the Kearny company 


did not know it, and could only fear as yet that every hour 
was making their position worse. On the hill there was no 
forage except the mahogany and manzanita brush. There 
was no water until, by boring holes, a modicum was 
obtained, for the men only. The animals must constantly 
be guarded, lest they break for the grass and the river below. 
The fattest of the mules was slaughtered for meat. 

While the camp was wondering whether Godey and his 
companions had succeeded in winning through with the 
message to Commodore Stockton, Captain Andres Pico sent 
in word under flag of truce that he had four prisoners, just 
captured, whom he would like to exchange and the hopes 
of the camp were dashed. The prisoners could be no others 
than Godey and his companions. The Americans had only 
one prisoner, but Lieutenant Beale was delegated to meet the 
Calif ornian representative and treat for an exchange on that 
basis. The request for Godey was refused by Pico, he 
being considered too valuable a man; but one Burgess, the 
least intelligent of them all, was offered. However, upon 
Lieutenant Beale reporting to the general, Lieutenant Emory 
was sent down with the prisoner to make the exchange. He 
found Captain Pico to be a " gentlemanly looking and rather 
handsome man," and in demeanor evidently as courteous as 
the Spanish-Mexican customarily is. 

Burgess took " rather a contemptuous leave of his late 
captors." He related that the Godey party had safely 
reached San Diego, but that when in sight of the camp, on 
their return, they had been spied and taken by the Pico 
videttes. Before capture they had " cached " their dis- 
patches under a tree. He did not know what was in the 
dispatches ; he did not know what Godey had communicated 
to Commodore Stockton, and therefore the exchange of 
prisoners resulted in but little satisfaction to the Americans 
upon the hill. They could not guess that, apprised both by 
the excited Stokes and by Godey, Commander Stockton was 


at this moment assembling all his available sailors and 
marines for a forced march to their relief. At this juncture 
the young Lieutenant Beale volunteered to take his Indian 
servant and try with another message for Stockton; Kit 
Carson instantly offered himself as the third. 

Of Kit Carson we have heard much ; the Indian must pass 
on to Valhalla as only one of the earth's heroes unnamed 
and unsung; but Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale on 
this December 8, 1846, made himself famous. The grand- 
son of Commodore Thomas Truxtun of the old navy when 
it was new, and son of another naval officer, Lieutenant 
George Beale, born in 1822 Acting Lieutenant Beale was 
now but twenty- four years old and sixteen months com- 
missioned as midshipman. But the American traditions 
animating him dated back through seventy years. Now 

the brief preparations for the forlorn hope were soon made; 
and brief they were. A rifle each, a revolver, a sharp knife, 
and no food ; there was none in the camp. General Kearny in- 
vited Beale to come and sup with him. It was not the supper 
of Antony and Cleopatra; for when the camp starves, no 
general has a larder. It was meager enough. The general 
asked Beale what provision he had to travel on; the answer 
was, nothing. The general called his servant to inquire what 
his tent afforded; a handful of flour, was the answer. The 
general ordered it to be baked into a loaf and be given to 
Beale. When the loaf was brought the servant said that was 
the last, not of bread only, but of everything; that he had 
nothing left for the general's breakfast. Beale directed the 
servant to carry back the loaf, saying that he would provide 
for himself. He did provide for himself; and how? By 
going to the smouldering fire where the baggage had been 
burnt in the morning, and scraping from the ashes and embers 
the half-burnt peas and grains of corn which the conflagration 
had spared, filling his pockets with the unwonted food. Carson 
and the faithful Indian provided for themselves some mule 
beef. 124 

San Diego was still thirty miles southwest. This, it must 


be understood, was the old San Diego later called Old 
Town about two miles ' north of the present city, or 
between it and the mouth of Mission Valley, which opens 
upon the flats of Mission or False Bay. Here, back of the 
squalid collection of adobe huts, Stockton was fortifying 
his quarters on a hill commanding the presidio. The 
interior country, to the Kearny position, was composed 
of mesas and abrupt hills covered by the chaparral, or brush, 
mingled with prickly pear and other cacti, and cut by deep 
clay and gravelly ravines or arroyos. It was the rainy 
season, although General Kearny, in a letter to his wife, 
reports the country to be very dry. 

With the fall of dusk the three started. Knowing that 
among the Americanos pent upon the hill was Kit Carson, 
the renowned hunter, and knowing also that every effort 
would be made to effect a juncture with Stockton, at night 
Captain Pico threw a double and triple cordon of sentries 
around the base of the hill and kept a patrol moving. He 
warned his men with the significant Spanish : " Se escapara 
el lobo " " The wolf will escape ! " 

To descend the hill slope the three scouts must crawl, in 
order not to limn themselves against the sky line. That 
the twigs should not crack underfoot, and that stones should 
not ring, the two whites removed their shoes and tucked 
them in their belts. Speedily their feet were afire with the 
stinging spines of the cacti. Presently the canteens were 
discarded, lest they, too, give out the alarm. 

Slowly, but surely, they evaded the vigilant guard of the 
Mexican sentinels, whom they found to be mounted and three 
rows deep, * * * So near would they often come to these 
Mexican sentinels, that but a few yards would measure the 
distance between them and their enemies, yet, with brave 
hearts they crept along over the ground foot by foot ; they 
were almost safe beyond these barriers, when all their hopes 
came near being dashed to pieces. This alarm was caused by 


one of the sentinels riding up near to where they were, dis- 
mounting from his horse and lighting, by his flint and steel, 
his cigarette. On seeing this, Kit Carson, who was just ahead 
of Lieutenant Beale, pushed back his foot and kicked softly 
his companion, as a signal for him to lie flat on the ground 
as he (Carson) was doing. The Mexican was some time, 
being apparently very much at his leisure, in lighting his 
cigarette ; and during these moments of suspense, so quietly 
did Kit Carson and his companion lie on the ground, that 
Carson said and always after affirmed, that he could distinctly 
hear Lieutenant Beale's heart pulsate. 125 

Presently the unconscious Calif ornian remounted his 
horse and rode away. 

It was during an interval of despair such as this that 
the lad Beale, his stout spirit worn by the torture, physical 
and mental, wavered, and reaching for Carson, whispered 
in his ear: " We are gone. Let 's jump and fight it out ! " 
But Carson, of longer experience in this work, and of a 
frame and spirit inured to keen dangers, answered : " No. 
I 've been in worse places before." And the boy was 

They passed through the cordon of sentries and videttes ; 
and before them lay two miles of open valley across which, 
despite the clustering cacti and the sharp stones, they must 
still crawl. Here beyond was broken ground, with covert of 
chaparral and of some trees. This slight vantage ground 
they gained at last. 

Now they might stand and don their shoes but they 
found that the shoes had been lost from their belts, and that 
the remainder of the way, like that preceding, must be trav- 
eled in tattered stockings or bare soles. Reckless of the 
cactus, they proceeded, as rapidly as possible, and daylight 
caught them well on their circuitous trail for San Diego. 
They left the high ground and took to the canons. Their 
feet swollen by bruise, cut, and cactus spine, their throats 
parched, they were yet elated at the progress they had 


made. However, the cordon thrown about San Diego 
awaited to be pierced. 

Meanwhile the camp on the hill had passed another 
wretched night. Among the sufferers who seemed doomed 
was Don Antoine Robidoux, the trader of Fort Uncom- 
pahgre and Fort Uintah. He, " a thin man of fifty-five 
years," slept next to Lieutenant Emory, who describes his 
plight : 

The loss of blood from his wounds, added to the coldness 
of the night, 28 Fahrenheit, made me think he would never 
see daylight, but I was mistaken. He woke me to ask if I did 
not smell coffee, and expressed the belief that a cup of that 
beverage would save his life, and that nothing else would. Not 
knowing there had been any coffee in camp for many days, I 
supposed a dream had carried him back to the cafes of St. Louis 
and New Orleans, and it was with some surprise I found my 
cook heating a cup of coffee over a small fire made of the 
sage. One of the most agreeable little offices performed in my 
life, and I believe in the cook's to whom the coffee belonged, 
was to pour this precious draught into the waning body of our 
friend Robideaux. His warmth returned, and with it hopes 
of life. In gratitude he gave me, what was then a great rarity, 
the half of a cake made of brown flour, almost black with dirt, 
and which had, for greater security, been hidden in the clothes 
of his Mexican servant, a man who scorned ablutions. I ate 
more than half without suspicion, when, on breaking a piece, 
the bodies of several of the most loathsome insects were 
exposed to my view. My hunger, however, overcame my 
fastidiousness, and the morceau did not appear particularly 
disgusting till after our arrival at San Diego, when several 
hearty meals had taken off the keenness of my appetite. 

This day, December 9, the Kearny camp stayed upon its 
hill. As for the three scouts, they made what progress they 
might, unseen, through the canoncitos, and at evening were 
within twelve miles of San Diego. Now they nerved them- 
selves for another ordeal. At dusk they separated to attempt 


the settlement by three routes and thus triple the chance of 

In San Diego Bay, on the frigate Congress and the sloop 
Portsmouth and the merchant vessels two bells were strik- 
ing for the hour of nine, and in the town itself the Stockton 
relief force were just starting for a night march to rescue 
Kearny, when an outpost challenged and was answered by 
an Indian. It was the first of the three scouts the Indian 
had won. He was taken to Stockton and scarcely had fin- 
ished telling his story in Spanish when Lieutenant Beale 
was carried in, unable to walk. By the time Carson arrived, 
about three in the morning, last because to assure success 
he had taken the more roundabout course, the relief force 
had long been upon their way, and the Indian, exhausted, 
and Beale, partially out of his head, had been cared for by 
the surgeon. 

Thus terminated what may be regarded as one of Kit 
Carson's greatest feats a feat in which he was not alone, 
but in which he was rivaled by a sailor and an Indian. 
Although, without doubt, he would have got through by 
himself, and without doubt Lieutenant Beale, if alone, would 
have failed, lacking the mature advice and the example of 
woodcraft supplied by his more skilled companions, to me 
the chief merit of the feat lies in the fact that its incentives 
were not escape for themselves, but succor for their com- 
rades. The danger was not so much capture (Pico seems 
to have been a kindly host, respecting bravery) as failure; 
and the chief sufferings to be feared were those which they 
did endure through thirst and cactus, and those which they 
would have endured had their efforts come to naught. That 
their tidings had preceded them does not lessen the merit 
of their performance. 

Carson was disabled for several days; Beale was so 
broken that for more than a year he was not in good 
health ; of the heroic Indian we hear naught. His was the 



(Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution) 






<! ^ 

O B 





burden of stoicism and anonymity. Back at the beleaguered 
camp on the hill Sergeant Cox had died from his wounds. 

December 10 The enemy attacked our camp, driving be- 
fore them a band of wild horses, with which they hoped to 
produce a stampede. Our men behaved with admirable cool- 
ness, turning off the wild animals dexterously. Two or three of 
the fattest were killed in the charge, and formed, in the shape 
of a gravy-soup, an agreeable substitute for the poor steaks of 
our worn down brutes, on which we had been feeding for a 
number of days. 

The surgeon announced that the wounded and ill were 
about ready for the saddle. Dependence could not be placed 
upon the scouts, who had not been heard from; and when 
the cache under the tree, where Burgess said the dispatch 
from Stockton was placed, was examined, no letter was 
found. This left the camp apparently without resource; 
and yielding to the importunities of his officers and men, 
General Kearny determined to cut his way to the coast, 
regardless of sacrifice. 

By orders, all the baggage, even to the greatcoats, was 
burned; and on this, the evening of the loth, the camp 
sought its hard beds. Again quoting Emory: 

We were all reposing quietly, but not sleeping, waiting for 
the break of day, when we were to go down and give the enemy 
another defeat. One of the men, in the part of the camp as- 
signed to my defense, reported that he heard a man speaking 
in English. In a few minutes we heard the tramp of a column, 
followed by the hail of a sentinel. It was a detachment of 
loo tars and 80 marines under Lieutenant Gray, sent to meet 
us by Commodore Stockton, from whom we learned that 
Lieutenant Beale, Carson, and the Indian had arrived safely in 
San Diego. The detachment left San Diego on the night of 
the 9th, cached themselves during the day of the loth, and 
joined us on the night of that day. These gallant fellows 
busied themselves till day distributing their provisions and 
clothes to our naked and hungry people. 


The union of sailors and dragoons, revealed by morning, 
was a disagreeable surprise to Captain Pico. He withdrew 
his forces, the Americans marched down from their hill, 
and, gathering the abandoned cattle, proceeded on the road 
now open to San Diego and the sea. 126 


AT THE hamlet of San Diego (" a few adobe houses, two 
or three of which only have plank floors ") Kit Carson, 
and presumably the forgotten Indian, speedily recovered, 
although for a day or so it was feared that Carson might 
lose his feet. Lieutenant Beale remained in a bad way. 

Meanwhile Commodore Stockton carefully conserved his 
titulary position as commander in chief and governor in the 
province which he claimed by uncertain conquest, and in 
the north Lieutenant Colonel Fremont still marched at the 
rate of three to fifteen miles a day upon Los Angeles. In 
New Mexico a revolt kindred to one which upset the Stock- 
ton-Fremont plans was about to interrupt the Kearny paci- 
fication also ; and in Old Mexico the Missouri volunteers of 
the noted Doniphan column, offshoot of the Army of the 
West, pressed another desert march into populous Chi- 

The principal news, of course, was war news; neverthe- 
less amidst the roll of cannon, the clank of saber, and the 
creak of army wagon and pack mule leather could plainly 
be heard the crack of the emigrant's lash and the groaning 
lurch of his white-topped wagon. A History of Texas; or, 
the Emigrants' Guide to the New Republic, by a Resident 
Emigrant (New York, 1845), was a rival of Scott's Tactics, 
and itself was rivaled by the Oregon books of Robert Green- 
how and C. G. Nicolay. 127 Upon the Overland Trail by the 
South Pass another new vade mecum was The Emigrant's 
Guide to Oregon and California, by L. W. Hastings of 
"Hastings' Cut-Off" the Fremont-Kern byway of 1845 



from Salt Lake to the Humboldt River. The last of two 
thousand emigrants by land were assailing the Sierra. 

As to the mid- West, the Latter Day Saints, pressing for- 
ward from the new state of Iowa, were spending a hard 
winter among the Potawatomi at the edge of that Indian 
country beyond which lay a promised land ; and six months 
more were to witness the Mormons marching in to accept 
old Jim Bridger's challenge of $1,000 for a car of corn from 
the Salt Lake valley. 

But we are with Kit Carson at San Diego and our ways 
are not the ways of peace. He who traveled with Carson 
rarely lacked for action; and here in California there was 
still in the field, assisted by the Picos and Manuel Castro, 
the ex tempore governor, Jose Maria Flores, whose dic- 
tum read : 

1. We, the inhabitants of the Department of California, 
as members of the great Mexican nation, declare that it is and 
has been our wish to belong to her alone, free and independent. 

2. Consequently the authorities intended and named by the 
invading forces of the United States are held null and void. 

3. All the North Americans being enemies of Mexico, we 
swear not to lay down our arms till they are expelled from the 
Mexican territory. 128 

On the morning of December 29, the allied forces of 
those rivals, the general and the commodore, marched for 
the north to meet Flores, to support Fremont, or to take 
Los Angeles, or all three. Carson accompanied as 
chief of scouts ; 129 Beale was still on the disabled list in the 
sick bay of the Congress and a month was to elapse before 
he would be able even to hold a pen. 

Fifty-seven dragoons out of the original no; sixty rifle- 
men Volunteers, 433 sailors and marines (forty-six of the 
tars being artillerists), three engineers, three medical offi- 
cers, twenty-five Indians and Calif ornians as teamsters, etc., 
made up the force of about 600 men, who were divided 


into four battalions, commanded by Captain Turner of the 
Dragoons, Captain Gillespie of the Volunteers and Lieuten- 
ants Renshaw and Zielin of the Navy. The battery of six 
pieces, " got up with great exertion, under the orders of 
Commodore Stockton," was commanded by Lieutenant 
Tilghman of the Navy ; the wagon train " of one four- 
wheel carriage and ten ox-carts " was in charge of Lieuten- 
ant Minor of the Navy. The wheels of the carts being only 
two feet in diamater, and (carreta fashion) literally rough- 
hewn from cross sections of trees, the march was somewhat 

Paralleling the romantic highway of the fathers the 
Camino Real, which connected the missions, but which was 
not by any means the smoothly traveled highway that the 
title, " Royal Road " implies in the form of a square 
termed by the sailors a " Yankee corral " (baggage in the 
center, artillery at the four corners), the column marched 
laboriously, taking ten days to cover 125 miles. Sometimes 
in sight of the surf, sometimes not within sound of it, up 
one sandy hill and down another whereon the grass was 
already sprouting, and amidst occasional ranch patches, 
past the abandoned missions of San Luis Rey de Francia 
and San Juan Capistrano, proceeded the toiling Americanos, 
until on the afternoon of January 8 the Calif ornians, under 
Flores himself, assisted by his colonels, Andres Pico and 
Jose Antoine Carrillo, gave the battle with artillery and 500 
cavalry, at the Rio San Gabriel. 

With skirmishers out, in the face of cannon muzzles 
ranged point blank along the opposite high bank only 100 
yards distant, the Americans dragged their pieces across 
the knee-deep current and through quicksands, into counter 
battery, and now, " very brisk in firing/' protected the cross- 
ing of the wagons and cattle. The grape and ball of the 
enemy, directed from the bank beyond, for the most part 
sped too high. Calif ornian cavalry, which had been show- 


ing their heads on right and left, suddenly charged the 
American rear (the favorite Mexican lancer practice) but 
were repulsed. Another furious but ineffectual charge or 
two, a counter charge (afoot), and the battle of San 
Gabriel, January 8, 1847, was won. 

The Calif ornians then withdrew a short distance, while 
the Americans camped on the field. But when on the 
morning of January 9 the Kearny- Stockton forces looked 
about them, the Calif ornians had vanished from the hill. 
The Americans marched across the mesa of the angle 
between the San Gabriel and the Fernando (Los Angeles) 
rivers. The Calif ornians were awaiting them. Says 
Emory : 

Here Flores addressed his men, and called on them to make 
one more charge; expressed his confidence in their ability to 
break our line ; said that yesterday he had been deceived in sup- 
posing that he was fighting soldiers. 

Flores fired at long range with his nine-pounders on the 
right. The Americans did not reply, or halt except for a 
moment. Los Angeles was only a few miles before. 

Flores sallied and made a " horseshoe in our front " ; his 
cannon extended on the points of the right and the left. 
The Americans marched into the horseshoe, silenced the 
nine-pounders on the right flank, received with deadly car- 
bines and rifles a charge on the left flank, and another 
charge on the rear; with a round of grape completed the 
discomforture of the enemy; and while considering that 
this was but the beginning of a good fight, found that it was 
the end! 

It was now about three o'clock, and the town, known to con- 
tain great quantities of wine and aguardiente, was four miles 
distant. From previous experience of the difficulty of con- 
trolling men when entering towns, it was determined to cross 
the river San Fernando, halt there for the night, and enter the 


town in the morning, with the whole day before us. The dis- 
tance today, 6.2 miles. 

And so passed the battle of Los Angeles, January 9, 1847, 
the final battle in the re-conquest of fair California. 

On the morning of January 10 the capitulation of Los 
Angeles was accepted, and Captain Gillespie " raised again 
the banner which four months before he had lowered." 

From the north Fremont, having in one black, rainy 
Christmas lost among the ravines a hundred horses and 
mules, on January n defiled upon the plain of San Fer- 
nando, twenty miles north from Los Angeles. To him, the 
third party, fell the spoils; and if there was anything in 
" Fremont luck," he here sipped of the last savory cup that 
fate had in store for him through many a month to come; 
for to him, at the rancho Cahuenga, January 13, Andres 
Pico and Jose Antonio Carrillo engaged to <e deliver up their 
artillery and public arms " and to " assist and aid in placing 
the country in a state of peace and tranquillity." In return 
Fremont guaranteed them " protection of life and prop- 
erty " and permission to leave the country " without let or 

So much for the Treaty of Couenga, made, as protests that 
army martinet, Colonel Philip St. George Cooke, by Lieuten- 
ant Colonel Fremont " with enemies he had never met, in 
a camp twelve miles from the capital and headquarters of 
two superiors in rank and civil authority, who had recently 
fought and defeated them." And albeit Commodore Stock- 
ton was properly annoyed, and General Kearny was prop- 
erly astonished, the measure was ratified. After all, the 
Fremont way, if not the orthodox way of negotiating with 
alleged rebels who had broken their paroles, was the best 
and shortest way between the two points of war and peace. 

On January 14 Lieutenant Colonel Fremont and his hardy 
battalion marched into the Ciudad de los Angeles; and Kit 


Carson had the opportunity of again meeting his old com- 

On January 16 Lieutenant Colonel Fremont became, by 
virtue of Commander in Chief Stockton's proclamation, 
Governor and Commander in Chief of the territory of Cal- 
ifornia, Upper and Lower, " until the President of the 
United States shall otherwise direct." The California Bat- 
talion stuck by their colonel; and on January 18 General 
Kearny, impotent in his rival governorship, took his few 
men and his ox carts back to San Diego, whither went, at 
the same time, the triumphant Commodore Stockton, with 
his sailors and marines " to sail as soon as possible for the 
coast of Mexico, where I hope they will give a good account 
of themselves." At the same time the new Commander in 
Chief by sea, Commodore W. B. Shubrick, was approaching 
Monterey with dispatches which would break the deadlock. 
Meanwhile in Taos and its environs was coming to a head 
that bloody revolt of January 19 which was to kill Carson's 
best friend and imperil his wife. But of this impending 
horror Carson was to be, for at least sixty days, utterly 
ignorant. He remained at Los Angeles with Fremont, who, 
persona grata to the Calif ornians, whom he well understood, 
had taken up his governorship of less than two troubled 


IT MAY have been fortunate for Kit Carson that at this 
time of conflict of military and civil authorities among 
the conquistadors he was detached again upon express duty 
with dispatches for Washington. He started February 25, 
accompanied by Lieutenant Beale, with dispatches from 
Fremont for Senator Benton at St. Louis, for the President 
and the Departments at Washington, and for the Fremont 
family, wherever they chanced to be. Lieutenant Emory 
was meanwhile hastening by way of Panama with Kearny's 
dispatches, and Lieutenant Gray of the Navy with Stock- 
ton's dispatches. Commodore W. Branford Shubrick had 
been a month at Monterey, there by Washington authority 
to assume the chief command a command only nom- 
inal, however, until fresh dispatches confirmed it. In the 
sarcastic words of Lieutenant Colonel Cooke of the 
Mormon Battalion (also arrived) : 

General Kearny is supreme somewhere up the coast ; Col- 
onel Fremont is supreme at Pueblo de Los Angeles; Com- 
modore Stockton is " Commander-in-Chief " at San Diego ; 
Commodore Shubrick, the same at Monterey; and I, at San 
Luis Rey; and we are all supremely poor; the government 
having no money and no credit; and we hold the Territory 
because Mexico is poorest of all. 130 

Kit Carson is well out of this mess ; and he will be doubly 
blessed if he does not, like a vessel in a typhoon, run into 
the other side of it at Washington. 

Lieutenant Beale is still much the worse for wear. He 



must have come up on the Cyane from San Diego to San 
Pedro of Los Angeles, thence to be invalided East. Says 
Carson : 

During the first twenty days of our journey, he was so weak 
that I had to lift him on and off his riding animal. I did not 
think for some time that he could live; but I bestowed as 
much care and attention on him as any one could have done 
under the circumstances. Before the fatiguing and dangerous 
part of our route was passed over, he had so far recovered 
as to be able to take care of himself. For my attention (which 
was only my duty) to my friend, I was doubly repaid by the 
kindness shown to me by his family while I stayed in Wash- 
ington, which was more than I had any reason for expecting, 
and which will never be forgotten by me. 131 

Save for a slight attack by Indians on the Gila, Carson's 
journey by desert trail was uneventful. A delay of ten 
days was occasioned at Santa Fe, where, from the new Fort 
Marcy, " our glorious flag, with its graceful stripes, playing 
in the wind," kept watch over the old, flat-roofed capital. 
But here arriving after forty days of travel from the Cali- 
fornia frontier, Kit Carson must have speedily lost interest 
in the change which had taken place in local affairs. If he 
had anticipated meeting Governor Charles Bent and receiv- 
ing news of wife and children, he was disappointed. Gov- 
ernor Charles Bent was dead murdered by his own 
townspeople and neighbors; and the womenfolk of the Taos 
home had barely escaped. Following the massacre, troops, 
regular and volunteer, had stormed the Taos pueblo, shat- 
tered the ancient church, scattered the defenders, captured 
both Indian and Mexican alleged ringleaders, and hanged 
them, as fast as tried and condemned, at the outskirts of 
the excited town. 

The news had in it every element to shock even so hard- 
ened a fighter as Carson: it concerned family, friend, and 
acquaintance, and revealed barbaric depths all unsuspected. 


For the Pueblos, particularly the Taos Pueblos, had been 
inoffensive during more than 100 years. 

The tale as it has come down to me through the one eye- 
witness living, 132 and probably as it was told to Kit Carson, 
when, impatient of delays, he galloped in (three months late 
for the revenge which he regretted all his life had been 
delegated to others), is this: 

Even before Charles Bent, governor of less than three 
months, started, January 14, 1847, from Santa Fe, his 
official quarters, upon his last ride to visit wife and chil- 
dren at his home in San Fernandez de Taos, one conspiracy 
by a Mexican clique against all Americans and American 
sympathizers had been exposed, and the governor had been 
warned that another was brewing. Nevertheless, fearless 
and singularly credulous for a man who had lived twenty 
years among such an unstable people, he went to Taos, and 
with him went a company of five other Taosans. 

Don Carlos, the American governor, and his party 
arrived at Taos on the second day, which was January 16. 
Even yet grace of three days remained, for the fateful date 
was January 19. But Governor Bent had said : " I am not 
afraid. When they [the Mexicans and Pueblos] have been 
hungry, I have fed them ; when they have been sick, I have 
attended them. Why should they harm me, their friend ? " 

Thus his doom was sealed by himself. Just before eight 
o'clock on the morning of January 19, while yet Taos was 
scarcely astir (for New Mexican villagers are not early 
risers), the Bent home was aroused by a tumult in the 
dusty, crooked street outside. Mexican threats, and wild 
shouts and chants, and the Bent name sounded above the 
shuffle of feet. Scarcely had Mrs. Bent called in alarm, 
and the governor sprung from his couch, when the wooden 
door of the entrance to the patio was burst in, and headed 
by Tomasito Romero, alcalde of the Indians at the pueblo 
three miles from the village, over the door poured the mob 


Mexicans, Taos Pueblos, with a few Apaches, a Dela- 
ware desperado, and other strays. 

In the house, a one-story adobe structure continuous with 
a row of similar dwellings, were the governor, his wife, 
who had been the Senorita Maria Ignacia Jaramillo, Kit 
Carson's wife (left in safe keeping), who had been the 
Senorita Jose fa Jaramillo, Mrs. Thomas O. Boggs, who was 
stepdaughter of the governor and the wife of his nephew 
(a trader from a famous Missouri frontier family), and the 
Bent children: a company of one man, three women, and 
tfiree children, the eldest of whom was ten years. 
f\ The clamorous mob beat upon a door of the house, and 
the governor opened to them. They surged upon the thres- 
hold. He faced them boldly, while behind him cowered 
the women and children. A bullet struck him in the chin. 

"What do you want, my friends?" he asked. 

" We want your head ! We want your gringo head ! " 

Already the insurrectos had killed on his own doorstep 
the sheriff, Stephen Lee, and the prefect (pure-blood Mexi- 
can but an American adherent), Cornelio Vigil of the Jara- 
millo connections. These two men had been of the Bent 
company w r hich left Santa Fe January 14. Governor Bent 
may have but dimly realized that murder had been com- 
mitted. However, he fully realized that murder was inevi- 
table; and he resolved to be the propitiatory sacrifice to the 
Moloch of savagery. 

Mrs. Bent, now at his side, alternately pleaded with him 
either to fight or to escape by a back way, and with the mob 
to spare him. In another room Mrs. Carson and Mrs. 
Boggs were digging frantically with poker and iron spoon 
to make a hole through the adobe wall into the adjoining 
house. And little Alfred Bent, aged ten, lugging a shotgun, 
took his stand by his father's side and said: 

" Papa, let us die like men." 

The governor now was bleeding from other wounds by 


arrows and slings. The mob was pressing close, too close 
for effective work, but were awed by the steady front of this 
one man. However, upon the roof of poles and mud, eager 
hands, coppery and hairy, were chopping with axes. 

Escape for Governor Bent was impossible. No Mexican 
would dare to shelter him who w r as the chief prospective 
victim. And knowing this, he refused to flee; knowing 
more than this, he refused to fight. Too well was he versed 
in Indian character. His pistols were thrust into his hands, 
but he declined them. 

" They wish my death. That is all. If I resist they will 
kill every one of us," he explained. " I must not imperil 
my women and children." 

Through the window and from the housetops behind the 
mob, missiles were showering upon him ; at the roof, which 
was the ceiling, hands were chopping and tearing. But 
now the hole in the division wall was hacked through. 
The governor, sorely spent, heard the dear voices calling 
to him, and left his post For a brief instant he and his 
were by themselves in that inner room; but even while the 
mob raged beyond the thin door separating life and death, 
he calmly insisted that the women and the children enter 
first through the hole. They did. They heard the mob 
crash into the room which the governor was still occupying ; 
and presently he came feebly crawling through, scalped and 
holding his hand to his gory head. 

The house in which refuge had been sought was the dwell- 
ing of a Canadian, whose Mexican wife was the only inmate 
at home. Of course she could do naught to aid the fugitives. 
By the windows, by the hole in the wall, and by a hole in 
the ceiling, into the haven rushed the murderers, mad with 
blood-lust. Amidst the screams of the women and children 
the governor tried to write a message on a piece of paper; 
he held up his hands in defense, and they were slashed down; 
he still survived long enough to pluck two or three arrows 


from his face ; and then shot in the face by a pistol at close 
range, he died. After that his head was hacked off. 133 

The mob left, parading through the town his gray scalp, 
stretched with brass tacks on a board. Other victims were 
Pablo Jaramillo, brother-in-law of Bent and Carson ; J. W. 
Leal, ranger and circuit attorney, and third companion 
of the governor upon the ride from Santa Fe, now also 
scalped alive; and even Narcisso Beaubien, son of Judge 
Charles Beaubien, brother-in-law of Lucien Maxwell, and 
just home from five years of college at Cape Girardeau 
below St. Louis. He had hidden himself under a heap of 
straw, and had evaded the search. But a woman servant 
in the family, spying him, called to the departing questors : 
" Ven '! Kill the young ones and they will never be men 
to trouble us ! " So back hastened the crowd, slew him 
and scalped him. His mother was of the country. 

All this did Kit learn, spurring in too late even to see 
the hangings. He learned that his wife, Mrs. Bent, and 
Mrs. Boggs had escaped so narrowly that they barely saved 
their lives, and took only the clothing they wore ; that Gen- 
eral Elliott Lee, of St. Louis, visiting his brother, the mur- 
dered sheriff, had been saved only by the firm stand of a 
priest; that at the Arroyo Hondo settlement, twelve miles 
northwest, after a brave defense, the hospitable miller and 
retired mountain man, Simeon Turley, and six mountain 
men friends, had been killed ; that at the Mora ( future 
home of Ceran St. Vrain) had been murdered eight other 
American " foreigners " including Lawrence Waldo of the 
Santa Fe trade Waldos ; and that on their way to Taos with 
beaver pelts two other trappers, William Howard and that 
Markhead for whom Carson had received a Black feet bullet 
in the shoulder, also had been foully slain, by their Mexican 

He heard, too, with added items, how Charles Townes of 
the 1843 Fremont expedition had escaped, the only resident 


American to do so hurrying by night from Taos on the 
back of a swift mule supplied him by his Mexican father- 
in-law, to carry the news to Santa Fe ; how over the moun- 
tains, by forced march in dead of winter, there had pushed 
to the relief of the place the hastily mustered troops of 
Colonel Sterling Price a detachment of sixty-seven men 
being volunteers under Ceran St. Vrain as captain, lucky 
Ceran St. Vrain, whom only apparent accident placed in 
Santa Fe that bloody day, instead of at his customary home 
in Taos. 

He learned how the revolutionary forces, 1,500 strong, 
were met the next day, January 24, at the pass of La Canada 
(Santa Cruz) on the Taos trail, twenty-five miles north of 
Santa Fe, and were defeated; how, reinforced to 480 men 
by the gallant Captain Burgwin of the First Dragoons 
(coming all the way from Albuquerque), the Price column 
had pressed on, cleared the pass at Embudo, and on Febru- 
ary 3> " exhausted and half frozen, reached Fernandez de 
Taos to find that the insurgents had fortified themselves in 
the Pueblo de Taos " the warriors occupying the massy 
old church. 

He heard how the determined little army paused before 
the stronghold; how for two hours they vainly battered 
the church; how by morning the canny Colonel Price and 
his young staff had evolved their plan of battle; how the 
combat was renewed ; how from two sides bellowed the can- 
non; how by noon no appreciable damage had been 
wreaked; how the soldiers now charged with ladders and 
axes; how they hewed and clung, throwing shells by hand, 
firing the thatched roof; repelled by bullet and arrow and 
lance, so that the scene was one of the Middle Ages; how 
the storming column of the First Dragoons recoiled from 
the church door, their captain, the lamented Burgwin, mor- 
tally stricken by a ball from the musket of the renegade 
Delaware, " Big Nigger " ; how now the sun was past the 


meridian, and while the Pueblos and the few Mexicans still 
defended desperately, although with waning strength, an- 
other storming column, led by Lieutenant Joseph Mcllvaine, 
assailed with axes, chipping at the thick wall itself ; how at 
three o'clock a breach was effected, at which battered from 
sixty yards the six-pounder howitzer; how all the air was 
heavy with the reek of the fight, and how, amidst it, run up 
to within ten yards, the howitzer poured shell and grape 
through the breach ; how " the mingled noise of bursting 
shells, firearms, the yells of the Americans, and the shrieks 
of the wounded, was most appalling " ; how at last through 
breaches and door burst the grimy soldiers, to find the church 
filled with smoke but almost empty of human beings ; how 
the Pueblos, leaping from the gallery, were streaming for 
their casas grandes and for the Sacred Mountain behind; 
and how, thus in the open, they were savagely picked off, 
fifty-one out of fifty-four or five, by the mounted riflemen 
under vengeful St. Vrain and Captain Slack; and how to 
the rifle of Ceran St. Vrain himself fell the Mexican ring- 
leader, Pablo Chaves, wearing at the time Charles Bent's 
shirt and coat. 134 

He was told how, with 150 dead and with the living dis- 
heartened by the failure of their religion, new or old, to 
protect them, the Pueblos the next morning, " bearing white 
flags, crucifixes and images," sued for mercy; how it was 
granted upon condition that they deliver over the chief 
Tomasito; how the Mexican conspirator, Pablo Montoya, 
self-styled " the Santa Ana of the North " was cap- 
tured and hanged three days thereafter, on February 7, in 
the Fernandez plaza; how, at the* civil trial, the Senoras 
Bent, Carson, and Boggs were the chief witnesses; how the 
Sefiora Bent with steady finger pointed to the murderer of 
her husband, and how a Missourian guard placed over the 
prisoners at the calabozo deliberately shot Tomasito; how 
six of the prisoners were hanged on April 9, near the jail 



(From Bowies' Cur New West) 




at the edge of town ; and how nine more, four Indians and 
five Mexicans, were to hang April 30. 

All this, and more, did Kit Carson hear ; for he had been 
from home a year and nine months. However, little was 
there for him to do now; and as a soldier he must get his 
dispatches through. It is evident that he arrived at Taos 
between the two wholesale hangings; for in the middle of 
April we find him descending along the Purgatoire of the 
Taos Trail to Bent's Fort; and on the evening of April 
20 (about) he is here encountered by Louis Garrard, who 
is just from the tragedies at Fernandez. 

Carson was now traveling on horses, posthaste after his 
delays. On May 6, at the mouth of the Purgatoire, four- 
teen miles below the Bent post, Mr. Ruxton, en route with a 
government train to the States, records : 

At this camp we were joined by six or seven of Fremont's 
men, who had accompanied Kit Carson from California; but, 
their animals "giving out" here, had remained behind to recruit 

It must have been after leaving Bent's Fort that Carson 
had a skirmish with the Pawnees, who frequented the plains 
and not the mountain country; and we know, by the fact 
of Carson having been met by the Garrard camp on the 
upper Purgatoire, that he was taking the mountain branch 
of the Santa Fe Trail, via Taos. As for the skirmish itself, 
all we know is by the pen of Ruxton that the Santa Fe 
Trail down the Arkansas was infested by Pawnees ; that in 
this preceding winter a government train had been attacked ; 
and that the Pawnees *' had likewise lately attacked a party 
under Kit Carson, the celebrated mountaineer, who was 
carrying dispatches from Colonel Fremont to the govern- 
ment of the United States/' 

But the Carson chronicles are silent as to the Pawnee 
" scrimmage " ; and within thirty days, or before the end 


of May, armed with the Fremont encomium " With me, 
Carson and truth mean the same thing. He is always the 
same, gallant and disinterested," Carson was at St. Louis, 
where Senator Benton received him hospitably. The sen- 
ator carefully perused the personal letter from Fremont, 
(the governor already deposed), obtained from the mes- 
senger sundry statements to be used later, and, forwarding 
to the President both epistle and messenger, instructed the 
latter to make the Benton home in Washington his quarters. 

At St. Louis, also, Carson was in line to receive sincere 
compliments upon the celerity with which he had traveled 
he having made the overland trip from the coast, " not- 
withstanding the inclemency of the season, and an unavoid- 
able detention at Santa Fe, in a shorter time [so states aj 
personal sketch of him, in 1848] than it was ever before 
accomplished." He had left on the 25th of February, and 
had arrived in the middle of May. 

The dispatch bearer continued with Lieutenant Beale and 
probably Lieutenant Talbot. The route from St. Louis 
doubtless was the route taken next year by that other 
mountain man and messenger, Joe Meek, envoy from 
Oregon, bearing another tale of massacre and a call for 
protection. From St. Louis to Washington City was a 
ten-days' journey, and inasmuch as (according to the Polk 
memorandum upon the back of the Benton letter) Carson 
delivered his dispatches June 8, he must have left St. Louis 
about the last of May. From St. Louis the popular and 
Doubtless the shortest road to Washington was by boat 
down the Mississippi, up the Ohio to Pittsburg; thence 
by stage southeast up the valley of the Youghiogheny and 
over the Allegheny Mountains, 125 miles to Cumberland, 
just below the Maryland line; from there by the enter- 
prising Baltimore & Ohio Railroad 170 miles to Relay 
Station, eight miles below Baltimore, then on by the 
Washington branch, 31 miles south to the national capital. 


Mrs. John C. Fremont, daughter of Colonel Benton, and 
wife of the distinguished explorer, was in attendance at the 
railroad depot when the train of cars in which Kit Carson was 
traveling arrived in Washington. It was quite late in the 
evening when he reached the terminus of his journey; yet, not- 
withstanding this, Kit had hardly landed on the platform of 
the depot before he was addressed by a lady who said that she 
knew him from her husband's descriptions of him, and that he 
must accept the hospitalities of her father's house. 135 

This Carson did glad, naturally, to be afforded a haven 
amidst surroundings so utterly strange to him. He had 
none of the Joe Meek bravado and audacity which made 
that erratic individual glory in his wild-man character and 
put up at the fashionable Coleman House, where he ordered 
antelope steak! The Fremont and Benton household was 
Carson's anchorage ; and according to Fremont, his " mod- 
esty and gentleness quickly made him a place in the regard 
of the family, to whom he gave back a lasting attachment." 

The partial seclusion afforded by the Benton home must 
have been doubly appreciated by Carson, because he was 
doubly embarrassed by the new environment in which he 
found himself, here in the focus not only of the country's 
rank and fashion, but also of the country's gaze. His name 
had preceded him ; and the fame thereof abashed him. He 
encountered himself in the new guise of a mighty hero. 
The Fremont reports of the first two exploring expeditions 
had spread Carson's name farther than he had any adequate 
idea, for he was by nature mild and unimaginative and by 
training matter-of-fact. The one recital by Fremont of that 
one deed, when on the journey homeward from California, 
in the spring of 1844, Carson and Godey made a bold desert 
ride to avenge the Fuentes camp, would have been sufficient 
to emblazon upon the mind of the East his alliterative name. 
This would have given the newspapers their cue ; and since 
those expeditions he had been mentioned in Fremont letters 


to Senator Benton and more briefly in dispatches ; and fre- 
quently, with varying degrees of fact and fiction, in chroni- 
cles filling the press. Moreover, the California Battalion 
in the Bear Flag war and in the conquest immediately 
succeeding had, by June, 1847, become historic. 

But now here he was, himself, Kit Carson, the moun- 
taineer and guide, overland from Los Angeles and able to 
tell not only of events there, and (if he were not wise) of 
the controversy impending, but also of the bloody insur- 
rection in New Mexico. 

The newspapers of Washington, Boston, New York, and 
Philadelphia did their best, in their journalistic style so 
carefully pedantic, so refreshing as compared with the hotly 
eager style of today, to make of Kit Carson and his arrival 
a story; but I do not find that he was awarded any scare 
heads. The East was still conservative toward the West 
that West which for the East existed only vaguely. 

Thus in June of 1847 Kit Carson, from the far West, 
first experienced the conventionalities of the far East. He 
would re-visit the East Washington, Boston, New York 
time and again ; and an eastern trip will be made twenty 
years after this initial venture, almost the last act of his 
life. But during these twenty years he will have grown 
accustomed to travel amidst cities, and to being lionized. 

Aside from the pleasure in the friendship of the Bentons 
and Fremonts and Beales, and probably of the Talbots, 
one other recognition in Washington of his services must 
have greatly gratified Kit Carson. On June 8 he delivered 
to the President his dispatches and the Benton letter ; on 
June 9 he was appointed by President Polk second lieuten- 
ant in the young regiment of the United States Mounted 
Riflemen ; soon thereafter he was assigned to duty again in 
California, and was ordered thither with dispatches. 

Lieutenant Beale accompanied him westward as far as 
St. Louis; there he was too ill to continue and had to 


stop off. Lieutenant Carson improved the opportunity 
afforded by this return trip, in the summer of 1847, and 
according to Mr. George H. Carson, his nephew, " visited 
all his relatives in Howard County. I remember him very 
well, it being the first time that we had met, he having left 
Missouri three years before I was born." 

From St. Louis and Howard County Lieutenant Carson 
proceeded up to Fort Leavenworth; reported, and with a 
company of fifty recruits for the reinforcement of the 
needy Colonel Sterling Price at Santa Fe, set out along the 
Santa Fe Trail, into his own country. 

He took the desert route, this time, which at the crossing 
of the Arkansas diverges from that guiding river for the 
dry march, or drive, over the arid stretch of the plains of the 
Cimarron in New Mexico. At Point of Rocks, only 160 
miles this side of Santa Fe, he caught up with a company 
of Lieutenant Maloney's, escorting a supply train for Santa 
Fe. Here occurred a small brush with the Comanches, who 
attempted to run off the Maloney stock and partially 
failed only because they ran into the Carson camp. As it 
was, the Indians, the boldest horsemen of the plains, suc- 
ceeded in getting away with twenty-seven of the Maloney 
horses and two of the Carson. 

At Santa Fe Carson (so asserts the not altogether reli- 
able Burdett) met his wife; and by this I suspect that, 
at the forking off of the Taos branch of the trail, he may 
have detached an express for his home place; or he may 
have sent on word ahead, from Missouri, recounting his 
new prospects. 

At Santa Fe his volunteers were delivered to their station ; 
and here Carson found awaiting him not only his wife but 
fifteen mountain men of his celebrated Taos forty-five. 
Strengthened by these, he pushed ahead for California; 
but, if we may believe Peters, not by the southern trail 
of the Gila, where perhaps he feared that Indians, instigated 


by refugees from Mexico and California, might be await- 
ing the passage of travelers. Moreover, the Gila Trail had 
been devastated of grass and wood by the marches of the 
dragoons and the Mormons. 

His course lay northwest by the Spanish Trail, cutting 
across southwestern Colorado into Utah and down through 
the Fillmore and Sevier Lake country to the trapper- 
christened Virgin River. 

On the Muddy River, tributary of the Virgin, in south- 
eastern Nevada, his party unexpectedly rode into a camp 
of 300 Indians, treacherously inclined, who, however, by 
threats and leveled rifles were made to keep their distance. 
Carson, knowing Indian character, repeated his success of 
1830, when on the Gila, south, he had likewise to clear the 
camp of undesirable neighbors. Now, as before, he gave 
the savages a limited time within which to move away; 
when, after the time had expired, several still lingered as 
if to test his nerve, he ordered his men to fire. One Indian 
was killed; three or four wounded. Such prompt action 
brought success. 

When Lieutenant Carson of the United States Mounted 
Rifles arrived in Los Angeles he found the aspect of affairs 
changed. A new dynasty reigned ; the troubled waters were 
smooth. Colonel Richard B. Mason, of the famous First 
Dragoons, was governor of California and commander in 
chief upon land; upon sea, Commodore James Biddle, 
the veteran of almost fifty years' naval service, succeeded 
Commodore Shubrick ; " Fighting Bob " Stockton had gone 
to Washington voluntarily to submit his defense in the 
Kearny-Stockton-Fremont imbroglio, to repair his political 
fences, to resign from the navy, and to be United States 
senator from New Jersey; Lieutenant Colonel John C. 
Fremont had on June 14, 1847, at Suiter's Fort, or New 
Helvetia, received from Monterey the following order from 
Kearny : 




(Courtesy of K. M. Chapman, from original in the New, Mexico 
Historical Society collection) 



(From oil painting in possession of his daughter, Mrs. Teresina 
Scheitrich, of Taos) 


I shall leave here on Wednesday, the i6th instant, and I re- 
quire of you to be with your topographical party in my camp 
(which will probably be fifteen miles from here), on the eve- 
ning of that day, and to continue with me to Missouri. 

Fremont suffered the ignominy of being assigned to the 
rear of the Kearny column, with instructions not to camp 
at more than a mile interval; and, at Fort Leavenworth, 
had been relieved of his government property and ordered 
to report, under arrest, to the adjutant general at 

At Los Angeles Kit Carson, finding no one to whom 
to report, was directed to the strange governor, already in 
office three months, and last of the line of four American 
commander governors of 1847. To Colonel Mason at Mon- 
terey he delivered his dispatches, and was assigned for 
dragoon recruiting service under Lieutenant (Captain?) 
Andrew Smith Johnson of Colonel Cooke's Mormon 

Next we find Lieutenant Carson transferred to a com- 
mand of his own and to a service probably more agreeable : 
that of guarding Tejon Pass, ninety miles north of Los 
Angeles. Smuggling and predatory bands of Indians and 
Mexicans were wont to travel a trail here between the desert 
on the east and the Los Angeles country on the southwest. 
Carson's business was to examine manifests and packs, 
and to curb the illegal traffic. At Tejon Pass, therefore, 
where for a brief space was the United States post of Fort 
Tejon, he spent a not unpleasant winter. 


WRITING home from Monterey, young Lieutenant 
William Tecumseh Sherman, of the Third United 
States Light Artillery, which after a long voyage around 
the Horn had finally arrived in port January 28, on the 
man-of-war Lexington, refers as follows to a Carson trip 
eastward : 

Monterey, Calif., April 10, 1848. The time is rapidly 
approaching when Lieut. Carson, the Kit Carson of Fremont's 
narratives, will start for home. He goes from Los Angeles 
to Santa Fe, and thence to Saint Louis, where he will put his 
mail in the Post Office, a long and rough route to entrust papers 
to, but letters have come that way and may possibly go 
again. 136 

Of Carson's trip we fortunately have full account, from 
the sprightly pen of Lieutenant G. Douglas Brewerton, late 
of the Seventh New York Volunteers, who accompanied 
Carson and who later proved himself to be a journalist the 
equal of the more famous Albert D. Richardson, another 
chronicler of a " ride with Kit Carson." 137 

The trail opened from Los Angeles, headquarters, where 
Lieutenant Brewerton waited to take advantage of the Car- 
son escort. He was " beginning to weary of the compara- 
tively idle life which we were leading," when 

a friend informed me that Carson had arrived and would 
shortly join our party at the mess-room. The name of this 
celebrated mountaineer had become in the ears of Americans 
residing in California a familiar household word ; and I had 
frequently listened to wild tales of daring feats which he had 
performed. . . . 



The Kit Carson of my imagination was over six feet high 
a sort of modern Hercules in his build with an enormous 
beard, and a voice like a roused lion, whose talk was all of 
" Stirring incidents by flood and field." 

The real Kit Carson I found to be a plain, simple, unostenta- 
tious man ; rather below the medium height, with brown, curl- 
ing hair, little or no beard, and a voice as soft and gentle as a 
woman's. In fact, the hero of a hundred desperate encounters, 
whose life had been mostly spent amid wildernesses, where the 
white man is almost unknown, was one of Dame Nature's 
gentlemen a sort of article which she gets up occasionally, 
but nowhere in better style than among the backwoods of 

Evidently it was Carson's way, born of experience, not 
to assume the responsibilities of the trail before he was pre- 
pared to meet them. Only a tenderfoot relies on luck or 
bravado to see him through; and the longer a woodsman, 
plainsman, mountain man, or seaman follows his profession, 
the greater care does he take to anticipate emergencies. 
Consequently Carson had gone into camp at Bridge Creek, 
fifteen miles from Los Angeles, where he assembled his 
men and animals. Brewerton continues: 

Many of these men were noted woodsmen, old companions 
of Carson in his explorations with Fremont; while others, 
again, were almost as ignorant of mountain life as myself; 
knowing nothing of the mysteries of a pack-saddle, and keep- 
ing at a most respectful distance from the heels of a kicking 

Lieutenant Brewerton joined Carson in the camp of 
instruction ; several weeks were spent in hardening the green 
men and the animals. Camp was broken May 2, and moved 
to Los Angeles, whence the start was to be made May 4. 

In the interval we employed ourselves in making our final 
preparations ; drawing rations and ammunition for our men, and 


dividing our provisions into bags of equal size and weight for 
the greater convenience of packing. The stores provided for 
our own mess (which had been increased to four in number 
by the addition of an old man, a friend of Carson's, and a 
citizen returning to the States), consisted of pork, coffee, 
brown sugar, " penole " and " atole." 

Atole is a kind of meal which when prepared forms a very 
nutritious dish not unlike " mush " * * *. Penole is 
made by parching Indian corn; then grinding it, and mixing 
it with cinnamon and molasses. This condiment is almost in- 
valuable to the travelers in the wilderness of the far West; 
as it requires no fire to cook it, being prepared at a moment's 
warning by simply mixing it with cold water. It has the 
further advantage of occupying but little space in proportion to 
its weight ; but when prepared for use, it swells so as nearly to 
double in quantity. A very small portion is therefore sufficient 
to satisfy the cravings of hunger. In addition to these mat- 
ters, we carried for our private consumption a small quantity 
icf dried meat; this is also obtained from the Mexicans, who 
cut the beef into long strips and then hang it upon a line, ex- 
posing it to the influence of the sun and wind until it is thor- 
oughly hardened. * * * Beef prepared in this way 
* * * is generally sold by the Mexican vara or yard. 

On May 4 the cavalcade set out from the Pueblo de los 
Angeles, which Kit Carson was not to see again for half 
a dozen years. The mules were well laden and the Carson 
saddlebags stuffed with soldier letters for " home." 

We numbered twenty hired men, three citizens, and three 
Mexican servants, besides Carson and myself, all well mounted 
and armed for the most part with " Whitney's rifle," a weapon 
which I cannot too strongly recommend for every description 
of frontier service, from its great accuracy and little liability 
to get out of order an important point in a country where 
no gunsmith can be found. 

Starting thus for the States, Kit Carson left behind him 
an Alta California pacified, with the Calif ornians and the 
Fremont riflemen alike settled down to the pursuits of 


quiet citizenship. But on the American Fork above Sutter's 
Mill gold had been discovered almost four months and 
California was on the verge of bursting into a flame which 
would spread like a prairie fire throughout the whole civi- 
lized world. Just in advance of it rode Kit Carson (the 
news reached Monterey May 29, and reached Los Angeles 
soon after), his back to possible fortune, his face to further 
fame. Yet in this he was favored, for it is doubtful if 
after another month he could have held in his train a 
corporal's guard. 

The trail from Los Angeles led past the preliminary camp 
at Bridge Creek and over the " Great' Pass " (which doubt- 
less was the Cajon Pass, by which the railroad today crosses 
the Sierre Madre 'twixt desert and interior California) for 
the Mohave Desert and the Spanish Trail. The first stages 
were without event, save accidents to poor packs, the over- 
taking of a trading caravan, and our tenderfoot lieutenant's 
trials with his muleteer. 

I have heretofore briefly mentioned my Mexican servant 
Juan, to whom Carson had given so indifferent a character. 
This scapegrace had for some days shown a disposition to give 
trouble in various ways ; but we had come to no open rupture 
until one afternoon, when riding in the advance, I looked back 
and observed the reata of my pack-mule dragging upon the 
ground. Calling Juan to secure it, I rode on, thinking that my 
orders had been attended to. Now it so happened at that par- 
ticular moment that Senor Juan was engaged with the as- 
sistance of a Mexican friend and his cigarrito in making him- 
self exceedingly comfortable ; and upon again turning my head 
I found my reata in a worse way than before. " Now," said 
Kit, " that fellow is trying which is to be the master, you or 
he, and I should advise you to give him a lesson which he 
will remember ; if we were nearer the settlements I would not 
recommend it, for he would certainly desert and carry your 
animals with him; but as it is, he will not dare to leave the 
party, for fear of Indians." As I fully concurred in Carson's 
opinion, and felt moreover that the period had arrived for 


bringing up Senor Juan with the " round turn " I had mentally 
promised him, I simply rode back, and without any particular 
explanation knocked the fellow off his mule. It was the first 
lesson and the last that I found it necessary to read him. Juan 
gave me, it is true, a most diabolical look upon remounting, 
which made me careful of my pistols for a night or two after- 
ward ; but he was conquered, and in future I had no reason to 
complain of any negligence. 

Our daily routine of life in the desert had a sort of terrible 
sameness about it; we rode from fifteen to fifty miles a day, 
according to the distance from water ; occasionally after a long 
drive halting for twenty-four hours, if the scanty grass near 
the camping grounds would permit it, to rest and recruit our 
weary cattle; among our men there was but little talking and 
less laughing and joking, even by the camp-fire, while travers- 
ing these dreary wastes; the gloomy land by which we were 
surrounded, scanty food, hard travel, and the consciousness of 
continual peril, all tended to restrain the exhibition of animal 
spirits. Carson while traveling, scarcely spoke; his keen eye 
was continually examining the country, and his whole manner 
was that of a man deeply impressed with a sense of responsi- 
bility. We ate but twice a day, and then our food was so 
coarse and scanty, that it was not a pleasure, but a necessity. 
At night every care was taken to prevent surprise; the men 
took turns in guarding the animals, while our own mess formed 
the camp guard of the party. 

During this journey I often watched with great curiosity 
Carson's preparations for the night. A braver man than Kit 
perhaps never lived, in fact I doubt if he ever knew what fear 
was, but with all this he exercised great caution. While ar- 
ranging his bed, his saddle, which he always used as a pillow, 
was disposed in such a manner as to form a barricade for his 
head ; his pistols, half cocked, were laid above it, and his trusty 
rifle reposed beneath the blanket by his side, where it was 
not only ready for instant use, but perfectly protected from 
the damp. Except now and then to light his pipe, you never 
caught Kit exposing himself to the full glare of the camp 
fire. He knew too well the treacherous character of the tribes 
among whom we were traveling; he had seen men killed at 


night by an unseen foe, who, veiled in darkness, stood in per- 
fect security while he marked and shot down the mountaineer 
clearly seen by the firelight. " No, no, boys," Kit would say ; 
" hang round the fire if you will ; it may do for you if you 
like it, but I do n't want to have a Digger slip an arrow into 
me, when I can't see him." 

When the hour for our departure from camp had nearly ar- 
rived, Kit would arise from his blanket and cry " Catch up " ; 
two words which in mountain parlance mean, prepare to start ; 
and these words once uttered, the sooner a man got ready the 
better. Kit waited for nobody; and woe to the unfortu- 
nate tyro in mountain travel who discovered to his sorrow that 
packs would work, bags fall off, and mules show an utter 
disregard for the preservation of one's personal property. 

They arrived at the dreaded Jornada del Muerto (Jour- 
ney of Death) which the Spanish Trail, like the majority 
of desert trails of the West and Southwest, possessed; 
and this stretch of eighty waterless miles, covered in one 
stage from three in the afternoon until late the next morn- 
ing, filled Brewerton's mind with fantasies : " Our way- 
worn voyagers, with their tangled locks and unshorn beards 
(rendered white as snow by the fine sand with which the 
air in these regions is often filled) had a weird and ghost- 
like look, which the gloomy scene around, with its frowning 
rocks and moonlit sands, tended to enhance and heighten." 

It was the many horse skeletons bleaching along this 
Jornada which prompted a tale, for the Brewerton ready 
ears, of old Bill Williams' raid upon the mission herds ; of 
the pursuit ; of the one thousand animals that dropped from 
fatigue; of the mountain men's reprisal, and of the final 
loss of the whole caballada to the Indians. 

The Jornada del Muerto put behind, 

our party, with few exceptions, besides the watchful horse- 
guard, were stretched upon the ground resting wearily after 
the long night's ride, which we had just accomplished. Carson, 


who was lying beside me, suddenly raised himself upon his 
elbow, and turning to me, asked " Do you see those Indians ? " 
at the same time pointing to the crest of one of the gravelly, 
bluff-like hills with which we were surrounded. After a care- 
ful examination of the locality, I was obliged to reply in the 
negative. " Well," said Kit, " I saw an Indian's head there 
just now, and there are a party of at least a dozen more, or 
I am much mistaken." Scarcely were the words out of his 
mouth when a savage rose to his full height, as if he had 
grown out of the rocks which fringed the hill top ; this fellow 
commenced yelling in a strange guttural tongue, at the same 
time gesticulating violently with his hands ; this he intended as 
a declaration of friendship; and Kit rising up, answered him 
in his own language, " Tigabu, tigabu (Friend, friend)." 

The old Digger was persuaded to come in and by twos 
and threes came in, sure enough, the dozen others whom 
Carson had predicted. Came in also, from the trail, and 
bound eastward, Captain Joe Walker with a trading com- 
pany convoying horses and mules into the Utah country. 

Imagine us seated in a circle on the ground, checkered red 
and white, with here a half naked Indian, and there a moun- 
taineer, almost as uncouth, in his own peculiar garb. The 
arms of both parties, though not ostentatiously displayed 
(which might have interfered with our negotiation), being 
placed where they could be reached at a moment's warning; 
a pipe (Carson's own particular " dudheen ") being put into 
requisition for the occasion, was duly rilled with tobacco, 
lighted, and a short smoke having been taken by Carson, 
Walker and myself, it was then passed to the oldest man among 
our Indian guests, who took two or three long whiffs, re- 
taining the smoke in his mouth until his distorted face bore 
so strong a resemblance to an antiquated monkey's under try- 
ing circumstances, that I had all but disturbed the gravity of 
the assembly by bursting into a roar of laughter * * *. 
The pipe having finally gone the rounds of our parti-colored 
circle, found its way back into the hands of the old Indian, 
who, having placed it securely in his mouth, seemed to con- 
tinue smoking in a fit of absence of mind, which not only 
induced him to refill it, but rendered him perfectly insensible 
to the reproving grunts of his brethren. 


And this was Kit Carson's " own particular ' dudheen ' " ! 

The talk then commenced. Kit told as much of his route 
and future intentions as he thought necessary, though I doubt 
whether they gained much real information ; and concluded by 
charging divers murders and outrages upon the members of 
the tribe to which the visitors belonged. The Diggers an- 
swered to the effect that there were bad Indians living among 
the hills who did such things, but that for themselves they were 
perfectly innocent, never did anything wrong in their lives, 
entertained a great regard for the whites in general, and our- 
selves in particular; and wound up, diplomatically speaking, 
by " renewing to us the assurances of their distinguished con- 
sideration," coupled with a strong hint that a present (a horse, 
or some such trifle) would not be unacceptable as an evidence 
of our esteem. 

The Diggers remained all day, and the night travel was 
hedged about by smoke signals, so that the next day Carson 
thought best to hold a young warrior as a hostage against 
trouble. The camp was undisturbed, save by the lamenta- 
tions, from the hills, of the young man's friends and rela- 
tives, who were quieted only by assurances from Carson 
and the hostage himself. 

The vicinity where in the spring of '44 Carson and Godey, 
under Fremont, performed the ride which made them both 
famous was passed, and the story was retold. Indian signs 
by tracks and fires grew more pronounced; and the party 
soon passed another of the Fremont camping places, where 
the hunter Tabeau had been killed. This tale also was told 
again, for 

many of our party had been friends and companions of the 
unfortunate Tabeau; and the exciting sensations called up 
by revisiting the scene of his tragic end, found vent in the deep 
and general feelings of indignation expressed by our moun- 
taineers against the tribe who had committed the murder. 

We had scarcely been encamped two hours, when one of our 
horse-guards reported that he had discovered new Indian 


tracks near our caballada, and expressed the opinion that they 
had just been made by some Digger spy, who had recon- 
noitered our position with the view of stealing the animals. 
With the associations connected with the spot, it will hardly 
seem wonderful that our line of conduct was soon determined 
upon. Carson, two old hunters, named Auchambeau and 
Lewis, and myself took our guns, and started upon the freshly- 
made trail. The foot-tracks at first led us through the winding 
paths, along the river bottom, where we were obliged to travel 
in Indian file; and then turned suddenly aside, ascending one 
of the steep sand hills which bordered upon the stream. There 
we lost some time from the obscurity of the trail, but finally re- 
covered it upon the crest of the bluff. A moment after, I heard 
Kit shouting, " there he goes " ; and looking in the direction to 
which he pointed, I saw a Digger with his bow and arrows at 
his back, evidently badly frightened, and running for his life. 
Such traveling through deep sand I never saw before. The 
fellow bounded like a deer, swinging himself from side to side, 
so as to furnish a very uncertain mark for our rifles. Once, 
he seemed inclined to tarry, and take a shot at us; but after 
an attempt to draw his bow, he concluded he had no time to 
waste and hurried on. Kit fired first, and, for a wonder, 
missed him ; but it was a long shot, and on the wing, to boot. 
I tried him next with a musket, sending two balls and six 
buck-shot after him, with like success. Auchambeau fol- 
lowed me, with no better fortune ; and we had begun to think 
that the savage bore a charmed life, when Lewis, who carried 
a long Missouri rifle, dropped upon one knee, exclaiming, "I'll 
bring him, boys." By this time the Indian was nearly two 
hundred yards distant, and approaching the edge of a steep 
canon (as it is called) of rocks and sand. The thing was now 
getting exciting, and we watched the man with almost breath- 
less care, as Lewis fired; at the crack of the rifle the Digger 
bounded forward, and his arm, which had been raised in the 
air, fell suddenly to his side. He had evidently been wounded 
in the shoulder ; yet, strange to say, such is their knowledge of 
the country, and so great are their powers of endurance, that 
he succeeded in making his escape. 

" Our adventures in the desert were eventually terminated 
by our arrival at ' Las Vegas de Santa Clara,' " continues 


Lieutenant Brewerton ; " and a pleasant thing it was to 
look once more upon green grass and sweet water, and to 
reflect that the dreariest portion of our journey lay 
behind us." 

Unknown to them while they had been traveling, all this 
great country of Nevada, and of the Utah which they were 
just entering, had changed nominal ownership; and the 
Spanish Trail which commenced in American territory by 
conquest now traversed American territory by purchase as 
well. Like a missing puzzle-piece the final section had been 
fitted into place in the old beaver West, completing to 
solidity the checkerboard of the United States of North 
America. 138 

Upon the high ridges beyond Little Salt Lake the Cali- 
fornia mules first saw and felt snow testing it gingerly 
with forefeet. 139 The Green was high and icy cold with the 
June meltings. 

This formidable obstacle was to be passed, and how to over- 
come the difficulty I scarcely knew. Kit, however, solved the 
problem, by proposing a raft, and accordingly all hands set to 
work with a will collecting the necessary material from the 
neighboring woods. Kit, in his shirt-sleeves, working hard 
himself instructing here and directing there, and, as usual, 
proving himself the master-spirit of the party. After much 
labor, a few logs were properly cut, notched, and rolled into 
the water, where they were carefully fastened together by 
binding them with our reatas, until this rude expedient fur- 
nished a very passable mode of conveyance for a light load of 

Having freighted it as heavily as we dared with our packs 
and riding saddles, and placed the bags containing the Cali- 
fornia mails upon the securest portion, we next proceeded to 
determine who of our party should be the first to swim the 
stream. Five men were at length selected, and as I was a 
good swimmer, I concluded to join the expedition as cap- 
tain. So taking Auchambeau as my first mate, we two 
plunged into the stream ; and having arranged our men at their 
appointed stations, only waited Kit's final orders, to trust 


ourselves to the waters. These instructions were soon briefly 
given in the following words : " All you men who can't swim 
may hang onto the corners of the raft, but do n't any of you 
get upon it except Auchambeau, who has the pole to guide it 
with ; those of you who can swim, are to get hold of the tow- 
line, and pull it along; keep a good lookout for rocks and 
floating timber ; and whatever you do, do n't lose the mail 

The result was, that while cheered on by the detachment 
which remained behind, the navigators were carried down 
stream a mile and landed on the same side whence they had 
started! Brewerton was almost drowned, being saved by 

The river at this point was impassable on account 
of rapids and rocks; so that, naked except for their hats, 
shouldering their baggage and towing the raft, the squad 
must retrace their way, ascending along the stream, " and 
uttering more than one anathema upon the thorny plants, 
which wounded our unprotected feet at every step." 

A second essay was successful abeit the plucky 
Auchambeau had to be well rolled and rubbed, on the oppo- 
site bank, to relieve him of violent cramps from the cold 
water and the exertion. Buffalo robes were borrowed, for 
covering, from the Ute Indians who opportunely arrived; 
and by the Utes' assistance the raft was unloaded. 

Carson and his squad crossed safely, with more baggage ; 
but the last squad met with disaster the raft bursting 
upon a snag, the men saving themselves with difficulty, and 
"six rifles, three saddles, much of the ammunition, and 
nearly all our provisions " being lost. 

Under these depressing circumstances, our camp that night 
was anything but a lively one ; the Eutaws being the only per- 
sons who seemed to feel like laughing. Indeed, I half think 
that our loss put them in high good-humor, as they had some 
prospect of recovering the rifles, when a lower stage of water 
should enable them to explore the bed of the river. The little 


that remained of our private mess stores was now the only 
certain dependence left to us in the way of food for our whole 
party. These stores were equally divided by Carson himself ; 
our own portion being the same as that of our men, and the 
whole would, with economy in using, furnish but three days' 
scanty rations for each individual. Some of our men had lost 
their riding-saddles, and were fain to spread their blankets 
upon a mule's back, and jog along as best they might a 
mode of travel which, when the animal's bones are highly de- 
veloped, I take to be " bad at the best." Others of the party 
had lost their clothing ; and I am sorry to say that the number 
of pairs of " nether integuments " was two less than that of 
the people who ought to have worn them. But this was a trifle 
compared with our other difficulties, for there was nobody in 
those regions who knew enough of fashions to criticise our 
dress; and as for ourselves we were in no mood to smile 
at our own strange costumes. Personally, I had been more 
lucky than the majority of my companions, having saved my 
precious suit of deer-skins, my rifle, and a few rounds of 
ammunition; but, alas! the waters of Grand [i. e., Green] 
River had swallowed up my note-book, my geological and bo- 
tanical specimens, and many of my sketches, a most serious 
and vexatious loss, after the labor of collecting and prepar- 
ing them. 

Two days thereafter the Grand River must be similarly 
crossed crossed with as much discomfort but with less 
loss. The party was soon down to horseflesh and muleflesh 
against which the New Yorker held out for forty-eight 
hours, only to give in, " and for more than a week ate horse- 
flesh regularly." 

" Perhaps the reader would like to know how it tasted. 
I can only say that it was an old animal, a tough animal, a 
sore-backed animal and, upon the whole I prefer 

The Rockies of Colorado were reached, at the western 
side. Here much game was seen, but it was exceedingly 
wild, evading the white hunters. 


I shall not soon forget accompanying Carson, about this time, 
on one of our many excursions to procure venison. We had 
discovered a doe with her fawn in a little grassy nook, where 
the surrounding rocks would partially screen us from their 
view, while we crawled within gun-shot. Dismounting with as 
little noise as possible, I remained stationary, holding our 
horses, while Kit endeavored to approach the unsuspecting 
deer. We were both somewhat nervous, for our supper and 
breakfast depended upon our success ; but we knew well from 
former experiences that if the doe heard but the crackling of 
a bush she would be off like the wind. Kit, therefore, ad- 
vanced with somewhat more than ordinary care, using every 
caution which a hunter's education could suggest, and at 
length gained a point within rifle-shot of his prey. My nerv- 
ousness was now at its height ; why does n't he fire ? thought 
I. But Kit was cooler, and calculated more closely than my- 
self. At last I saw him bring his rifle to his eye, at the 
time showing himself sufficiently to attract the attention of 
the doe, who raised her head a little to get a look at the object 
of alarm, thus offering a better mark for his rifle; a moment 
more, at the report of the piece the doe made a convulsive 
bound, and then rolled upon the sward. To tie our horses, cut 
up the deer, and attach its quarters to our saddles, was the 
work of twenty minutes more; and then, remounting, we 
pursued our way, making quite a triumphal entry into camp, 
where Kit's luck rejoiced the hearts and stomachs of every 
man in the party ; it was really a great event to us in those days, 
and we had that night a right jolly time of it. 

From those rugged mountain paths we at length emerged, 
descending into the beautiful plains known as Taos Valley. 
Here we had scarcely gone a day's journey, before we discov- 
ered a great increase in the amount of " Indian sign," and 
also a change in its appearance, which, though hardly percept- 
ible to an inexperienced eye, was too surely read by Carson's 
not to beget great uneasiness. 

" Look here," said Kit, as he dismounted from his mule, and 
stopped to examine the trail ; " the Indians have passed across 
our road since sun-up, and they are a war-party, too ; no signs 
of lodge-poles, and no colt tracks ; they are no friends, neither ; 
here's a feather that some of them has dropped. We'll have 
trouble yet, if we don't keep a bright lookout." 


After two or three alarms, which resulted in nothing 
serious, the party was within eighteen miles of the outer- 
most of the New Mexican settlements. This was a debat- 
able country, where both Utes and Apaches were liable to 
be encountered. 

I was just beginning to feel a little relieved from the anxious 
watchfulness of the last few days, and had even beguiled the 
weariness of the way by picturing to myself the glorious din- 
ner I would order upon reaching Santa Fe, when Carson, who 
had been looking keenly ahead, interrupted my musings, by 
exclaiming : " Look at that Indian village ; we have stumbled 
upon the rascals, after all." It was but too true a sudden 
turning of the trail had brought us full in view of nearly two 
hundred lodges, which were located upon a rising ground some 
half a mile distant to the right of our trail. At this particular 
point the valley grew narrower, and hemmed in as we were 
upon either hand by a chain of hills and mountains, we had 
no resource but to keep straight forward on our course, in 
the expectation that by keeping, as sailors say, " well under 
the land," we might possibly slip by unperceived. But our 
hope was a vain one; we had already been observed, and ere 
we had gone a hundred yards, a warrior came dashing out 
from their town, and, putting his horse to its speed, rode 
rapidly up to Carson and myself ; he was a finely formed sav- 
age, mounted upon a noble horse, and his fresh paint and 
gaudy equipments looked anything but peaceful. This fellow 
continued his headlong career until almost at our side, and, 
then, checking his steed so suddenly as to throw the animal 
back upon its haunches, he inquired for the " capitan " (a 
Spanish word generally used by the Indians to signify chief) ; 
in answer to which, I pointed first to Carson, and then to 
myself. Kit, who had been regarding him intently, but with- 
out speaking, now turned to me, and said : " I will speak to this 
warrior in Eutaw, and if he understands me it will prove that 
he belongs to a friendly tribe; but if he does not, we may 
know to the contrary, and must do the best we can ; but from 
his paint and his manner I expect it will end in a fight any- 

Kit then turned to the Indian, who, to judge from his ex- 
pression, was engaged in taking mental, but highly satisfactory 


notes of our way-worn party, with their insufficient arms and 
scanty equipments, and asked him in the Eutaw tongue, " Who 
are you ? " The savage stared at us for a moment ; and then, 
putting a finger into either ear, shook his head slowly from 
side to side. " I knew it," said Kit; " it is just as I thought, 
and we are in for it at last. Look here, Thomas ! " added he 
(calling to an old mountain man) " get the mules together, 
and drive them up to that little patch of chaparral, while we 
follow with the Indian." Carson then requested me in a 
whisper to drop behind the savage (who appeared determined 
to accompany us), and be ready to shoot him at a moment's 
warning, if necessity required. Having taken up a position ac- 
cordingly I managed to cock my rifle, which I habitually car- 
ried upon the saddle, without exciting suspicion. 

Kit rode ahead to superintend the movements of the party, 
who, under the guidance of Thomas, had by this time got the 
pack and loose animals together and were driving them toward 
a grove about two hundred yards further from the village. We 
had advanced thus but a short distance, when Carson (who 
from time to time had been glancing backward over his 
shoulder) reined in his mule until we again rode side-by-side. 
While stooping, as if to adjust his saddle, he said, in too low 
a tone to reach any ears but mine : " Look back, but express 
no surprise." I did so, and beheld a sight which, though highly 
picturesque, and furnishing striking subject for a painting, 
was, under existing circumstances, rather calculated to de- 
stroy the equilibrium of the nerves. In short, I saw about a 
hundred and fifty warriors, finely mounted, and painted for 
war, with their long hair streaming in the wind, charging down 
upon us, shaking their lances and brandishing their spears as 
they came on. 

By this time we had reached the timber, if a ^few stunted 
trees could be dignified with the name; and Kit, springing 
from his mule, called out to the men : "Now, boys, dismount, 
tie up your riding mules; those of you who have guns, get 
round the caballada, and look out for the Indians ; and you 
who have none, get inside, and hold some of the animals. Take 
care, Thomas, and shoot down the mule with the mail bags on 
her, if they try to stampede the animals." 

We had scarce made these hurried preparations for the 
reception of such unwelcome visitors, before the whole horde 
was upon us, and had surrounded our position. For the next 


fifteen minutes a scene of confusion and excitement ensued 
which baffles all my powers of description. On the one hand 
the Indians pressed closely in, yelling, aiming their spears, and 
drawing their bows, while their chiefs, conspicuous from their 
activity, dashed here and there through the crowd, command- 
ing and directing their followers. On the other hand, our 
little band, with the exception of those who had lost their 
rifles in Grand River, stood firmly around the caballada; Car- 
son, a few paces in advance, giving orders to his men, and 
haranguing the Indians. His whole demeanor was now so en- 
tirely changed that he looked like a different man; his eye 
fairly flashed, and his rifle was grasped with all the energy of 
an iron will. 

" There," cried he, addressing the savages, " is our line ; 
cross it if you dare, and we begin to shoot. You ask us to 
let you in, but you do n't come unless you ride over us. You 
say you are friends, but you do n't act like it. No, you do n't 
deceive us, we know you too well ; so stand back, or your lives 
are in danger." 

It was a bold thing in him to talk thus to these blood-thirsty 
rascals ; but a crisis had arrived in which boldness alone could 
save us, and he knew it. They had five men to our one; our 
ammunition was reduced to three rounds per man, and re- 
sistance would have been momentary ; but among our band the 
Indians must have recognized mountain men, who would have 
fought to the last, and they knew from sad experience that the 
trapper's rifle rarely missed its aim. Our animals, moreover, 
worn out as they were, would have been scarcely worth fight- 
ing for, and our scalps a dear bargain. 

Our assailants were evidently undecided, and this indecision 
saved us; for just as they seemed preparing for open hos- 
tilities, as rifles were cocked and bows drawn, a runner, 
mounted upon a weary and foam specked steed, came galloping 
in from the direction of the settlements, bringing information 
of evident importance. After a moment's consultation with 
this new arrival, the chief whistled shrilly, and the warriors 
fell back. Carson's quick eye had already detected their con- 
fusion, and turning to his men, he called out, " Now, boys, we 
have a chance; jump into your saddles, get the loose animals 
before you, and then handle your rifles, and if these fellows 
interfere with us we '11 make a running fight of it." 

In an instant each man was in his saddle, and with the cabal- 


lada in front we retired slowly; facing about from time to 
time, to observe the movements of our enemies, who followed 
on, but finally left us and disappeared in the direction of their 

Few situations show to better advantage Kit Carson's 
mountain-man abilities, or the respect in which he was 
held, as a leader. Even with his preparedness and bold 
front the party might not have escaped, for we are told 
that he was aided by the Indians' fear of past misdeeds and 
by their information that a posse was upon their trail. Now 
free from peril, camp was made, and rest of a day was taken. 

Early upon the following day we resumed our march, and 
that evening terminated our wanderings, for a season, by bring- 
ing us to the Mexican village of Taos, where I was hospitably 
entertained by Carson and his amiable wife, a Spanish lady, 
and a relative, I believe, of some former governor of New 

The other members of the party again took the trail, for 
Santa Fe, eighty miles south ; and rinding in Kit Carson a 
disposition (under the circumstances not reprehensible) " to 
linger by his own fireside to the last moment which duty 
would permit," Lieutenant Brewerton, with promise from 
host to join him again in Santa Fe, also took the trail and 
overtook the company. 

Thus ended Lieutenant G. Douglas Brewerton's " ride 
with Kit Carson." With that mockery of fate which so 
often impresses itself upon man's career, after enduring 
all the hardships of the trip by desert, river, and peak, our 
New Yorker finds himself, now arrived at Santa Fe, stricken 
with influenza, caught (he judges) by sleeping in a draught 1 
Therefore, Kit Carson, riding in but little later, ready for 
business, and appearing as a " very gleam of sunshine, if 
sunshine ever came in the garb of a travel-soiled moun- 
taineer," had to be disappointed in that companionship 
upon which he must have counted. However, this was not 




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(Photograph by O. T. Davis, at Fort Garland, Colo., 1905) 


the only disappointment. In Santa Fe he learned for the 
first time, from the lips of Colonel E. W. B. Newby of the 
Illinois Volunteers, that the lieutenancy conferred a year 
ago by the President never was confirmed by the Senate. 

I do not know that this news was to Kit Carson a dis- 
appointment so much as it was a source of chagrin. He 
says that he did not intend to retain the commission, after 
the war, and this we may believe. His tendencies and his 
independent training, coupled with his love of home, did 
not influence him toward army life. But he had been 
taught, for a year, to consider himself a commissioned 
officer in the United States service, and he had presumed 
that he was entitled to a lieutenant's pay. Now he must 
realize that he had not been a commissioned officer, that 
he had not been entitled to a lieutenant's pay, and that, 
furthermore, he had no back pay and no future pay coming 
to him ! 14 To him here, triumphant after a long, hard, 
dangerous trail upon government business, a trail followed 
through successfully despite hunger, thirst, freshet, and sav- 
ages, the words from Colonel Newby must have been a 
blow in the face. 

About this failure of President Folk's recommendation 
there has centered a mystery. Why should Kit Carson 
have been turned down by the Senate, particularly at this 
time when appointments were called for, right and left, as 
the forces in the field demanded? Many a commission in 
the army has been handed to less deserving candidates. Dr. 
Peters, of the army medical corps, serving soon after the 
occurrence, claims that army circles did not know the reason 
for the Senate's action. Nevertheless, it seems to me that 
this was a little slap by the West Point and Kearny faction 
at Senator Benton, who, of course, suggested to President 
Polk the Carson commission. 

The alleged caste of the West Point clique had long been 
bitterly assailed by Senator Benton, who never minced 


words; to West Point jealousy he laid all hostility against 
Fremont, his son-in-law, and he lost no opportunity to 
deride the abilities and the characters of the Government 
Academy graduates. 

Whether the commissioned rank in the regular service 
resented the appointment, per se, of illiterate Kit Carson, 
who may have appealed on the trail but not in the garrison ; 
whether it was trying to check the infusion of civilian blood 
amidst its Academy sang royal cannot now be told. In Civil 
War time no man who wore the United States uniform was 
more highly esteemed than was Colonel and General Kit 
Carson although even here he was made (it is claimed) 
the scapegrace of army politics. 141 

As regards this lieutenancy which was not confirmed, Kit 
Carson betrayed no pique. It is stated by Peters that 
various friends, real or pretended, advised Carson not to 
persist with the dispatches, urging him that he was under 
no obligations to perform the mission. As might be 
expected of Carson, and as could not be expected of a man 
less broad in his conceptions of duty, he forebore to turn 
his dispatches in to the commanding officer at Santa Fe, and 
continued on to finish the task which he had undertaken. 
This is the more creditable to him, inasmuch as from Colo- 
nel Newby he had learned also that the Santa Fe Trail and 
the southwest plains were badly infested by the Comanches, 
threatening all travel. 

From Santa Fe Carson returned with fresh animals to 
Taos, for the remainder of his trans-continental journey. 
Wishing, with his usual discretion, to avoid interference 
by the Comanches, he rode from Taos with four followers, 
of whom one was Oliver Wiggins (just recovered from a 
bullet wound received at the battle of Monterey, Mexico), 
and headed upon a great circuit into the north and the 
Platte country. 

This being June, it is probable that the bulk of the Indians 


would be finishing their buffalo hunts on the plains tag- 
ging the great herds northward. I should think, there- 
fore, that Carson would have chosen the foothills trail, 
through Pueblo, Colorado, up the Fontaine qui Bouille, 
through Colorado Springs, over the divide and down to 
the site of the future Denver. Hereabouts he veered to 
the eastward, and struck the Bijou Creek which flows some 
fifty miles east of present Denver, through the rolling plains, 
for many a crooked mile deep-cut in clay or bordered by 
willows and cottonwoods and wild crabs, to empty into the 
South Platte west of old Fort Morgan. 

Into the first noon camp of the Carson party, twenty-five 
miles from the Bijou mouth, rode seven Kiowas. I have 
the story from Wiggins. 

No Indians of early plains days were more to be feared 
than the perpetually hostile Kiowas ; and the arrival of the 
visitors indicated trouble. Although Carson's reputation 
among the tribes of the Southwest was undiminished, he 
had been absent so long that to many of the young men his 
face was unfamiliar. These Kiowas evidently did not recog- 
nize him. They sat, ate, and the inevitable pipe was filled, 
lighted, and passed. 

Carson understood enough Kiowa to make out what the 
guttural asides meant. Said the leader to the other bucks : 

" These are some of those Carson men who have killed 
so many of us. When the smoke has gone around the 
third time, kill them quick." 

Carson understood but betrayed no emotion other than 
the suave dignity which characterized the meeting; but he 
spoke to his companions: 

" Be attending to the horses. Watch what I do, and if 
I lift my hand, shoot." 

The pipe passed, once, twice; and as Carson took it for 
the third pull, he remarked, pleasantly but clearly, in plain 


" I suppose this is the last time 'round, is it ? Now you 
will kill us." 

The Indians understood enough English to interpret 
aright either the words or the tone. Carson's men of course 
sprang forward with their weapons; the startled Kiowas 
threw off their blankets but they were too late. Carson 
berated them in Kiowa and English. 

" You red dogs ! You thought you could murder us. 
Do you know who I am ? I am Kit Carson ! Take a good 
look at me, before you die." 

The Indians collapsed not so much from alarm as from 
astonishment. They dropped their guns and bows. 

" You 're ai nice set of cowards," scolded Carson. 
" Shame on you and your tribe. Go! Go, tell your chiefs 
that you have seen Kit Carson and that he let you live. 
Stop! " he yelled, as they slunk away. " Take your bows 
and arrows, so you can kill a few rabbits on your way. 
And next time you smoke the peace pipe with a white man, 
do n't plan to murder him." 

The Kiowas went off, afoot. After watching them out of 
sight, the Carson party resumed their route, leaving the 
Bijou and making a short cut to the Platte. Where the 
South and the North Platte joined, a trading party descend- 
ing from Fort Laramie were met. So Wiggins, his three 
comrades, and one of the traders bound southward turned 
back for Taos, and Carson continued with the other party 
of fifteen, on to St. Joe. 

He reported at Fort Leavenworth, deposited his mail at 
St. Louis, and proceeded again to Washington, where he 
was entertained by the Benton and Fremont households. 

Here in Washington was also Joe Meek, the mountain 
man, now " envoy from Oregon," arrived across country 
to bear the news of the Whitman massacre and to deliver 
the appeal of the Oregon people for government protec- 
tion. But Judge J. Q. Thornton had preceded him, trav- 


eling around the Horn, to present to Congress Oregon's 
ideas upon the administration of her affairs. The bill for 
the admission of Oregon Territory was being considered at 

Of Judge Thornton, the citizen, we hear little; of Joe 
Meek, the messenger, we hear more, as he revels in favor of 
hero-worshiping womankind, lives fatly, and occasionally 
is interviewed by the more humble Carson. A strange 
meeting amidst unwonted scenes was this, for both. 

So long as Meek's purse was supplied, as it generally was, 
by some member of the family at the White House, Carson 
could borrow from him. But one being quite as careless of 
money as the other, they were sometimes both out of pocket 
at the same time. In that case the conversation was apt to take 
a turn like this: 

Carson : " Meek, let me have some money, can't you ? " 

Meek : " I have n't got any money, Kit." 

Carson : " Go and get some." 

Meek : " Hang it, whar am I to get money from ? " 

Carson: " Try the ' contingent fund,' can't you? " 142 

After a bitter debate upon the section which prohibited 
slavery, the Oregon Bill, as approved by Judge Thornton, 
passed the Senate, with all amendments, Sunday morning, 
August 13 only twenty- four hours before final adjourn- 

Now appointed United States Marshal in the new terri- 
tory, Joe Meek was dispatched to Newburg, Indiana, to 
hand to General Joseph Lane, veteran of the late war, the 
presidential warrant as governor of the northwest empire. 

Kit Carson, retired to civil life (and glad of it), having 
again experienced the hospitality of the Benton home, left 
it, and in October was back by his own fireside at old Taos. 


WHEN in October of 1848 Kit Carson, brevet lieuten- 
ant (so to speak) late of the United States Mounted 
Riflemen, returned to home and private citizenship in Fer- 
nandez de Taos, he found that during the past decade the 
frontier of the United States had not advanced an inch. 
The longitude of western Missouri was still the longitude 
of the American frontier. 

The state of Iowa had come into the flag ; the territory of 
Minnesota was another new enlistment; and ranged thus, 
Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, in a solid 
column, permanent and steadfast, the trans-Mississippi West 
pressed against the trans-Missouri East. But the line 
of cleavage was as sharply marked as the boundary between 
two nations. 

Of the great Louisiana Purchase of 1803 only this narrow 
eastern strip between the Mississippi and the lower Missouri 
was yet devoted, even in part, to the legitimate uses for 
which the expanse had been created the home of civilized 
man. Ignoring its possibilities, across it were annually 
trekking hundreds of people, deeming it but an interruption, 
and rejoicing when they had put behind them its five hun- 
dred miles of hidden riches. It was still the Great Amer- 
ican Desert; still accepted as an asylum for wild men and 
a pasture for wild beasts; the reports of Fremont thus far 
were bearing only green fruit. 

Still there assembled at Westport, or at Elm Grove, 
within the eastern border of present Kansas, the emigrants 
for Oregon and the traders to Santa Fe reinforced, now, 



by the California settlers, and soon doubly reinforced 
by the Forty-niners. Oregon Territory embraced all that 
northwest country beyond the South Pass, the country out 
of which was to be born not one state but three: Idaho, 
Oregon, Washington. As for the rest of that mighty sec- 
tion beyond the Shining Mountains, the present upper Cali- 
fornia, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, western Colorado, and 
western New Mexico, it was known vaguely as California 
and as " unorganized." 

In October, 1848, Major (Brevet Lieutenant Colonel) 
John M. Washington, of the Light Artillery in the recent 
war, was military governor of New Mexico, succeeding 
Charles Bent, Donaciano Vigil, Colonel Sterling Price, 
Colonel E. W. B. Newby, and Major Benjamin L. Beall 
a long list (equaling that of California) for two short 
years. New Mexico had been left largely to its own devices 
under the eyes of temporary tutors. " Until Congress shall 
provide for them a territorial government " the people of 
New Mexico are advised by the President " to live peaceably 
and quietly under the existing government de facto;" but 
addressing a letter, August 28, 1848, to " the people of 
California and New Mexico," Senator Thomas H. Benton 
advised : " Meet in convention, provide for a cheap and 
simple government, and take care of yourselves until Con- 
gress can provide for you." 

The provisional government idea had worked well in 
Oregon ; but minds and temperaments in Latin New Mexico 
were far different from those of the Saxonized Northwest. 
Here in Nueva Mejico social conditions also were differ- 
ent : Texas claimed the Rio Grande, and in the organization 
of a civil government the slave question thrust the shadow 
of its black arm across the pages of any prospective con- 

If Kit Carson, back from the wars, anticipated a period 
of ease, he was to learn that he was one who could " con- 


sider peace only as a breathing-time." With those 650,000 
square miles of territory the government of the United 
States had inherited the doubtful asset of 120,000 addi- 
tional Indians: Navajos and Apaches, of characteristics 
untested, unappreciated; Utes and Comanches, known to 
the trapper and the trader, but a tenantry strange to the 
new landlord. 

Against these against the Ishmaelite Comanches rang- 
ing the Texas plains and north clear to the Santa Fe Trail ; 
against the Utes, descending from the San Luis Valley and 
the foothills of Colorado to prey upon the lowlanders and to 
stir the plains tribes into retaliation; against the crudest 
Apaches, the very thugs and holdups of the Southwest, 
by horse and foot ranging from central Arizona to the 
Cimarron of northeastern New Mexico; against the 
wealthy and ever haughty Navajos, " lords of New Mex- 
ico," whose open declaration was " that they would have 
exterminated the Mexicans long ago had it not been more 
profitable to use them as herders"; against these the Gov- 
ernment of the United States must not only protect its 
own citizens, but by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 
through which the savage-infested territory was acquired, 
did " solemnly agree " to protect Mexico also, and to redeem 
and return to their country the luckless Mexicans whom 
Apache, Comanche, and Navajo were in the habit of captur- 
ing across the border and leading back, as slaves, to the 
fastnesses of the North. 

That was a large contract upon the part of the new owners 
of all this acreage and of all these chattels; how large, 
Mexico, two hundred heavy years helpless before the red 
raiders, well knew and Mexico's successor was to find 
out by experience extending over forty years of hard, inces- 
sant fighting to a practical extermination of the enemy. 
The millions of dollars and the hundreds of lives expended 
by the United States to fulfill its obligations toward a con- 


quered people form one bright spot in the western Indian 

So dawns in the Southwest the era of the army days, 
forming protection for the march onward of the white 
settler a march to which the hundred forts now but idle 
names were stepping-stones as significant, in many cases, 
as the crosses beside the Mexican trails. 

Not yet, indeed, had there sprung up by trail and stream, 
in desert and green vale, those valiant citadels, Fort Union, 
Fort Bliss, Defiance, Bowie, Apache, Fillmore, Massachu- 
setts, Bascom, Sumner, Yuma, Craig, Stanton, Wingate, 
Webster, and others many of them parched, forsaken 
places where to live was heroic. 

In the North the First Regiment of Mounted Riflemen 
(Carson's old regiment) was about to follow the Oregon 
Trail to the coast, leaving behind a garrisoned Fort Laramie 
and Cantonment Loring beside old Fort Hall. Thus the 
soldier advanced into the country of the Sioux, never to 
be driven back. And when in October, 1848, Kit Carson 
returned to Taos, almost simultaneously there marched in 
C Company, First Dragoons, Lieutenant J. H. Whittlesey. 
At Fort Marcy of Santa Fe, also, there were troops. But 
the army days were tentative and very young. Afar 
stretched New Mexico including the country north into 
central Colorado, west to California, east indefinitely; a 
country wild, diversified, hot and cold, with its deserts, 
chaparral and timber, its fearsome canons, secret valleys 
and rugged heights, ruled by the Navajo, poisoned by the 
Apache. Through it, as through the North, the white race 
must first travel by emigrant trail to California, and after 
that, buy with blood the right of tilling the barren earth. 

Upon the eve of the new era Kit Carson arrived " home." 
He was thirty-nine years old ; he had a name known from 
California to Washington ; to welcome him there were old 
friends: Judge Beaubien, Captain Ceran St. Vrain (about 


to remove to the Mora, to conduct a store and a mill), 
Lucien Maxwell, Alex Godey (about to join Fremont at 
Bent's Fort, for a disastrous exploration straight west into 
the heart of the Colorado mountains), Dick Owens (soon 
to be married), and many mountain-man cronies of former 

It required time to distribute the American soldiery 
through New Mexico; the volunteers had been discharged, 
and recruits for the regular service, and particularly for the 
mounted regiments, had to be found. The cavalry arm, 
hitherto deprecated, came into its own when the army 
spread through the western chaparral and desert. Mean- 
while, for a year or so, the Navajo and the Apache on the 
one hand and the Americano on the other examined one 
another, appraised one another, sparred a little, skirmished 
a little, and drew on to the inevitable close grip. 

So, with the interruption of an occasional trip to Santa 
Fe, on private business, and of one or two trips afield as 
guide with Major Benjamin L. Beall, in command of the 
district, in ineffectual pursuit of marauding Apaches, Kit 
Carson, for a year, rested. 

His household was composed of his wife, little Teresina 
Bent, his niece (daughter of the murdered Charles Bent, 
his friend), and Dick Owens. From this home, under date 
of January 27, 1849, John Charles Fremont writes to his 
wife. The fourth expedition has been a failure, and he 
is resting after its fatigues. 

My Very Dear Wife : 

I write to you from the house of our good friend Carson. 
This morning a cup of chocolate was brought to me, while 
yet in bed. To an overworn, overworked, much fatigued, and 
starving traveler, these little luxuries of the world offer an 
interest which in your comfortable home it is not possible 
to conceive. While in the enjoyment of this luxury, then, I 
pleased myself in imagining how gratified you would be in 
picturing me here in Kit's care, whom you will fancy con- 


stantly occupied and constantly uneasy in endeavoring to make 
me comfortable. How little could you have dreamed of this 
while he was enjoying the pleasant hospitality of your father's 
house ! The furthest thing then from your mind was that he 
would ever repay it to me here. 
* * ******** 

I find myself in the midst of friends. With Carson is living 
Owens, and Maxwell is at his father-in-law's, doing a very 
prosperous business as a merchant and contractor for the 


** ******** 

Mr. St. Vrain dined with us today. Owens goes to Mis- 
souri in April to get married, and thence by water to Cali- 
fornia. Carson is very anxious to go there with me now, and 
afterwards remove his family thither, but he cannot decide 
to break off from Maxwell and family connections. 

At Carson's adobe house Fremont stayed three weeks. 
This increase in the household was nothing for the hos- 
pitable Southwest. However, Carson and his wife were 
anticipating a further increase; for in the spring of 1849 
arrived their first-born, Charles (named for Charles Bent), 
who, however, survived only a few months. 

At this time living in New Mexico was a problem, so 
scarce was money, so high were prices. The occupation of 
the country by the invading army had stripped it bare of 
resources and it had not yet shown any recuperative powers. 
An adobe house with dirt floor rented in Santa Fe (as 
Indian Agent Calhoun pathetically records) at $70 a month. 

Corn is worth at this time $2 per bushel ; shoeing of a horse, 
$4; sugar, 50 cents per pound; coffee, 37^; lumber, $65 per 
M; bacon and lard, none except at the commissary's; beef, 
exceedingly poor and coarse, 8 cents per pound; a shoat, not 
weighing more than 60 to 75 pounds, $8 to $10; chickens, 
from 25 to 50 cents each; turkeys, from $i to $2. The neces- 
sities of life, such as we have been accustomed to in the States, 
and the delicacies and luxuries which we require, must all be 
brought from the United States. 


Freight on the Santa Fe Trail from Independence to 
Santa Fe was ten and twelve cents a pound; horses were 
$125 ; hay, $60 a ton, and little of it at that. 

Obviously, it behooved Kit Carson, not even on half pay, 
to engage in some business which would be a source of 
steady income. His beaver days were over, a resumption of 
his precarious hunter days could not be considered, the 
post of official guide for the United States Army was not 
created, neither would it be a sinecure; and with that fas- 
cination of opposites which stamps alike the frontiersman 
and the clerk, Kit Carson again bethought of farming. 
And, despite the attractions of California, which was then 
booming, he decided upon farming in New Mexico with 
Lucien Maxwell. 

Maxwell was located upon the vast estate of his father- 
in-law, Judge Charles Beaubien, fifty miles east from Taos, 
in a valley on the Santa Fe Trail, mountain branch, from 
Bent's Fort south over the Raton Mountain, down to the 
Rayado River and on toward Santa Fe. Stretching many 
leagues over hill and dale, this estate comprised the cele- 
brated " Beaubien and Miranda Grant " : a sheer gift in 
1841, from Governor Manual Armijo to his friends Don 
Guadalupe Miranda and Don Carlos Beaubien, of more than 
1,700,000 acres a principality almost as large as the 
state of Connecticut. Don Carlos bought out Don Guada- 
lupe; as son-in-law of Don Carlos, Lucien Maxwell man- 
aged the domain, eventually inherited it, and here he lived 
in 1849, potential prince of the greatest private estate in 
America, " and after the vicissitudes of early frontier life, 
enjoyed leisure and profusion in his later days." 143 

Out of his love of home, loving his friends also, and 
counting Lucien Maxwell high among them, Carson " threw 
in " with him ; eventually moved over from Taos, and put 
up an adobe house. Just what was his thought, in making 
the change, we may not know. But it was his second 


venture in the same place, for hereabouts upon the Cimar- 
roncito, or Little Cimarron, he and Dick Owens had been 
ranching (says Peters) when Fremont sent from Bent's 
Fort his call to the Third Expedition. 

Encouraged by the presence of both Maxwell and Carson 
in this valley which Utes and Comanches made perilous, 
other bold spirits may have entered and squatted; there 
was land a-plenty for all, and the more settlers, the better. 
But a Deerfield or a Plymouth of old New England days 
was not more exposed or more precariously founded than 
this early Maxwell colony at the Rayado. However, all 
the men were Indian fighters, and the women, mainly of 
Mexican blood, were wonted to frontier perils. 

But no sooner was Carson established than he was sum- 
moned away by an event which seems to have been noted 
as the first of those sickening murders that marked the 
American warfare with the Apache in New Mexico and 

This was the attack October, 1849, upon the family of 
J. M. White a tragedy that through more than sixty years 
has come down to us as typical of frontier times in the 
Southwest. Strangely enough, all the references are simply 
to " Mr. White, a merchant of Santa Fe " ; by this title 
he traveled his last trail, and by this title he died. Return- 
ing in his own carriage from Missouri, with his wife and 
ten-year-old daughter, near Point of Rocks on the Trail, 
being within 161 miles of Santa Fe and as he thought 
beyond danger, he pushed ahead of the slower wagon train 
(under F. X. Aubrey, well known trader) for home. " A 
German named Lawberger, an American whose name is 
not known, a Mexican, and a negro servant, accompanied 
his carriage." 

While the Americans were in camp, a small party of Indians 
came up and demanded presents. These Mr. White refused 
to give them, and drove them out of the camp. They returned 


shortly, and were again treated in the same manner. This 
time they did not go away, but commenced an attack upon the 
party by shooting the negro and the Mexican, the latter falling 
upon the fire. The others made an attempt to escape, but were 
all killed except Mrs. White and child, who were made pris- 
oners. The dead bodies were then laid beside the road, but 
were neither scalped nor stripped. A short time afterward a 
party of Mexicans came along and began to plunder the wagon, 
when the Indians, who had concealed themselves, fired upon 
them and wounded a boy, who was left for dead. He lay still 
until the Indians had left, when he got up and started toward 
the settlements, with an arrow sticking between the bones of 
his arm. He came up with a party of Americans the same 
day, and got in in safety. 144 

The word seems to have been taken to Taos, where 
Major W. N. Grier, then in command of the post, ordered 
his company of First Dragoons into the field, to the rescue. 
On their way to pick up the trail at the scene, the dragoons, 
guided by two Taos mountain men, Joachim Leroux and 
one Fisher, whose deeds have distinguished him more than 
his name, passed through the Rayado; and with his char- 
acteristic readiness Kit Carson joined them. However, the 
scouting command was vested in Leroux. 

The trail was found at the spot where the deed had been 
committed, and for twelve days was followed southeast, 
to the Canadian River. Already some three weeks had 
passed ; so that it was a cold trail to begin with, and snow 
had since descended. Only the mountain-man guides, expe- 
rienced in Indian customs, could realize what probably had 
befallen Mrs. White during these three weeks. 

Carson describes this as being the most difficult trail to 
follow he remembers ever to have undertaken, for the rascally 
Apaches, on breaking up their camps, would divide into parties 
of two and three, and then scatter over the vast expanse of the 
prairies to meet again at some preconcerted place, where they 
knew water could be had. In several of these camps the pur- 


suers found remnants of dress and other articles, that were 
known to have belonged to Mrs. White. By these signs, they 
were led to believe that she still lived. 145 

It is probable that in hope of rescue the wretched prison 
captive did her best to encourage pursuit. At last, in eastern 
New Mexico, near where the Canadian River enters Texas, 
the dogged perseverance of the chase was rewarded by 
sight of the Apache village. Carson was ahead; well 
knowing the utmost importance of instant action before 
the Indians could form for defense or could collect their 
wits for aught save flight, with a yell to the soldiers to come 
on he rode headlong, whooping briskly. 

Dr. Peters would have us believe that between the Leroux 
and the Carson adherents jealousy existed ; and that oppos- 
ing Carson's policy, guide Leroux counseled a parley; 
whereupon Major Grier halted his command. In this is 
seen that mistaken policy which for a time dominated the 
attitude of the Government toward the red man : the policy 
of temporizing, rather than of conquering. 

However, in the case of Mrs. White there was room for 
two opinions: one, that the band could be induced to sur- 
render her; the other, that the band could be made to sur- 
render her. Unfortunately, while Kit Carson acted upon 
the latter assumption, Major Grier paused to act upon the 
other. Carson probably was right. 

He charged alone, and seeing this, he reined up. Mean- 
while, the camp had been in confusion, squaws scuttling for 
safety, warriors hurriedly mounting to spread for cover. 
But seeing the hesitation of the soldiery, they turned with 
a volley, and a ball struck the major in the breast, by the 
shock taking the breath from him. He w r as unable to speak. 
Infuriated by the wound, apparently mortal, given him, his 
men swept forward. The charge was too late. Only one 
warrior was killed, the others escaped, and the camp was de- 
serted save for the body, yet warm, of Mrs. White, with an 


arrow piercing it. Having been granted a moment of grace 
the Indians had, as was their custom, killed their now use- 
less captive as menace against other pursuits, and as a 
means of lightening their trail. 

" As God would have it," said Kit Carson, to Colonel 
Meline, in years afterward, " she was just dead when we 
reached her; and perhaps it was as well." She was " wasted, 
emaciated, the victim of a foul disease, and bore the sor- 
rows of a life-long agony on her face." 146 To Surgeon 
Peters, Carson related : 

I am certain that if the Indians had been charged imme- 
diately on our arrival, Mrs. White would have been saved. At 
first, the savages were much confused at our approach, and I 
do not hesitate to say that she saw us as quickly as any of 
the redskins did, for it undoubtedly was the all-absorbing topic 
in her mind that her rescue would be attempted by her friends 
and countrymen. On seeing us coming, she had attempted to 
run toward us, when she was shot down. Had she been 
liberated, she could not have long survived the brutality of 
hardships and vicissitudes she had experienced. Words can- 
not describe the bitter cup that she had been obliged to drink 
during her captivity. 

Major Grier was found not to have been seriously in- 
jured; the ball had struck his buckskin gloves, folded and 
thrust inside his blouse. The Indians were pursued farther, 
for a few miles, until the dragoon horses, already severely 
pushed, began to fail. Then the company, fain to be con- 
tent with the little damage that they had inflicted upon 
Apache life and property, could only return to the camp, 
give the piteous remains of the murdered woman a burial, 
and head for Taos. 

On the way a fierce winter blizzard drove them into the 
timely shelter of a patch of timber near Las Vegas. Had 
it not been for the knowledge of their guides they might 
have perished; but to their sufferings there was some rec- 


ompense in the tidings, later, that the Apaches, hard put 
through loss of their camp equipment, were decimated by 
this same storm. 

The young daughter, who had been sharing the mother's 
torture, was still to be found. The Honorable Alexander 
H. H. Stuart, Secretary of the Interior, says in his annual 
report of 1850, to the President: 

At the last session, Congress appropriated $1,500 to be used 
in procuring her release. This sum was promptly placed at 
the disposal of Agent Calhoun, the nearest resident agent, 
whose judgment and knowledge of the Indian character fit 
him in a peculiar manner to discharge the duty, with full 
power to use it in such manner as he might think best. He 
has also been instructed to convey information to the Indians, 
that unless this child be delivered up they will receive the 
chastisement by the military power of the government which 
their savage cruelty so richly deserves. 147 

But despite this fatherly admonition by the State Depart- 
ment, the Apaches (for obvious reasons) declined to pro- 
duce the girl whose body probably long before had been 
food for the wolves. 

The Government at Washington was still young in Indian 
knowledge, still uncertain in its course toward its fickle 
wards : and Colonel Meline's statement, here appended, may 
in the main be true. 

The following year a treaty of peace was made with the 
Apaches, and they received the " whisk " and " shoog " 
(whiskey and sugar) for which alone they made it. The 
Apache chief who represented the tribe, and who had carried 
off the unfortunate lady we have spoken of, came into our camp 
on that occasion appropriately adorned with a necklace made 
of the teeth of the murdered Doctor White ! 148 

Of this, however, we are assured : the head chief, White 
Wolf (Lobo Blanco) finally met his deserts in a dramatic 


duel, March 5, 1854, near the Cimarron River seventy miles 
east of Fort Union, with Second Lieutenant David Bell, H 
Company, First Dragoons. The company, then on a scout, 
numbered about thirty men. 

Bell had assigned his baggage-mules to the charge of five 
or six men, and held a mounted interview with White Wolf, 
who stood in front of twenty-two Indians on foot, well armed 
and in line. Bell was in front of his troopers, who were about 
twenty paces from the Indians exactly equal in number and 
extent of line. Both parties were prepared to use firearms. 

The parley was almost tediously long. * * * White 
Wolf was very bold, and became defiant. 

At last the chief sinking on one knee and aiming his 
gun, and Bell throwing his body forward and reining up his 
horse they exchanged shots. Both lines, by command, fol- 
lowed the example, the troopers, however, spurring forward 
through or over their enemies. The warriors mostly threw 
themselves on the earth, and several vertical wounds were 
received by horse and rider. 

The Apaches were broken, and fled; the death list 
(mainly Indian) was twenty-one out of the forty-six 
participants. Lieutenant Bell was not wounded, but 

he had shot White Wolf several times, and afterwards others 
did so; but so tenacious of life was he that, to finish him, 
a man got a great rock and mashed his head. 149 

Thus were the White family avenged. But from this 
aftermath of that tragedy which so interested Kit Carson 
and his contemporaries, let us return to Kit Carson himself. 

During the winter of 1849-50 Rayado (the " The " being 
early dropped, and today being forgotten) became a mili- 
tary outpost, at which were stationed a detachment of the 
First Dragoons. The settlement must have been growing 
Lucien Maxwell and Kit Carson, both so well known, 
would have popularized the venture and the protection 
of the soldiers would be welcomed. As an outpost Rayado 


was admirably located, being across the ridge from close- 
pent Taos, and within easy striking distance of the Santa Fe 
Trail from the Cimarron to Santa Fe, and of the country 
north and south. 

Through Colonel John Munroe, commanding the Ninth 
Military District (which was New Mexico) we have the 
following dispatches, dated April 15, 1850, transmitted to 
the adjutant general at Washington, " giving an account of 
a gallant and successful affair * * * with a maraud- 
ing party of Apache Indians, the troops having the valuable 
experience of Mr. Kit Carson and his two associates in con- 
ducting the business " : 

TAOS, NEW MEXICO, April 12, 1850. 

Herewith I have the honor to forward, for the information 
of the Colonel commanding 9th military department, a report 
of Sergeant Holbrook, of my company, who has lately had a 
fight with a party of Apache Indians. I regard the affair as a 
very handsome one, and very creditable to the sergeant and his 
men. I am informed by a creditable person from Rayado that 
two of the Indians were killed with the sabre the contest 
having become so close. 

The sergeant speaks of having the scalps of the Indians 
whom they killed. They were taken, I am informed, by two 
or three Mexican herders who came up after the fight was 

I rejoined my command at this post (from Santa Fe) at n 
o'clock A. M. yesterday. 

Very respectfully, &c., 

Capt. and B't. Maj., Com'g at Taos, New Mexico. 

RAYADO, NEW MEXICO, April 7, 1850. 

It becomes my duty to report the result of a fight between 
the detachment of company " I," first dragoons, stationed 
at Rayado, and a party of Apache warriors, which took place 
yesterday, the 6th instant, on the opposite side of Red River, 
thirty miles from this place. The circumstances led to it as 


follows: On the night of the 5th instant, Mr. Maxwell's 
herders' camp, which is three miles from here, was attacked 
by Indians, who severely wounded two of his men, and drove 
off nearly all of the horses and mules belonging to the citizens 
of this place. On the news of this, I started in pursuit, with 
the assistance of Messrs. Carson, Fesher, and Newell ; and as 
soon as daylight appeared, to enable us to discover the trail, 
we galloped until we overtook the enemy. A charge was 
immediately made, which resulted in the loss on our side of 
one horse (that of private Richart's, shot from under him). 
We killed five Indians, (the scalps of which we have for a 
voucher), and wounded one or two others, and recovered all 
the animals, but four, which four Indians made their escape 
on. Allow me to say that every man was eager in the pursuit, 
and fought with that gallantry characteristic of the American 

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

Sergeant, Commanding Detachment. 

Commanding Officer at Taos, N. M. 

Existence at the Rayado was therefore by no means as 
halcyon as might have been hoped; for when the Indians 
grew so vindictive as to pillage the property of mountain 
men as well known as Maxwell and Carson life assumed a 
serious aspect. 

Soon after the little battle exultantly reported by Colonel 
Munroe, from Major Grier and Sergeant Holbrook, Kit 
Carson and comrade Tim Goodell (another veteran of the 
beaver trail) rode north with fifty mules and horses to cut 
the Oregon Trail at Fort Laramie. Here the animals were 
marketed among the passing emigrants bound for the golden 
West 1 and here, if report may be credited, the overlanders, 
curious to view the wearer of a name so celebrated, upon 
seeing Carson, roundly vented their disappointment, even 
declared the modest claimant a pretender. Goodell was 
smitten with the gold fever, and proceeded to California; 


Kit Carson, more phlegmatic, and conscious of his family 
responsibilities, returned to Rayado, via Taos. 

Again at home, and bent upon that farmer's profession 
which he would make a vocation, but which the fates decreed 
should be only an avocation, during the summer he was 
called, as general police officer, to take the trail of one Fox 
who, with some companions, was suspected of designs upon 
the life and money of Messrs. Weatherhead and Brevoort, 
Santa Fe merchants bound upon a purchasing visit to St. 
Louis. With a small squad of dragoons, and aided by rein- 
forcements from the inward bound recruits under Captain 
R. S. Ewell (future Confederate general) encountered on 
the way, Carson, after a ride of some 300 miles, intercepted 
the caravan before the evil design upon it had been consum- 
mated, exposed the conspirators, and assisted at their arrest. 
Fox was taken back to Taos, and incarcerated in the cala- 
bozo whence, for lack of proper witnesses to testify 
against him, he was soon liberated. As for Kit Carson, his 
tangible reward for succor rendered to honest traders was a 
pair of silver-mounted revolvers, engraved with " a very 
few, but expressive words." 

Sometime in 1850 he made a trip to Missouri, and brought 
back with him (so claims a report) his little daughter 
Adaline and a niece, Susan Carson, who soon married Jesse 
Nelson, a member of the Rayado colony. Carson's house- 
hold now consisted of his wife, his half-Indian daughter 
Adaline, aged about fourteen and better educated than her 
father, his niece, Teresina Bent, aged nine, and his new niece, 
Susan. In the coming year, 1851, would be born a second 
boy, William the first of the seven children who lived. 

Again, in 1851 (the exact season is in dispute), Carson 
made another trip to Missouri, as captain of a wagon train 
from the Maxwell rancho, conveying, probably, robes, Mex- 
ican blankets, horses and mules, for trade in the " States." 
He would see the beginnings of that new town called Kansas 


City; and from its port of Westport Landing would descend 
by steamboat to St. Louis, there to purchase supplies for the 
Rayado establishment. Carson came back by Bent's Fort, 
which, now lapsed from its former glory and devoted chiefly 
to the wants of the gold field emigrants, was being offered 
in vain to the government. 

With his customary fortune he ran into a band of Chey- 
ennes enraged over the flogging of a chief by an indiscreet 
army officer. Here ensued a scene very much like the inci- 
dent with the Kiowas, in the summer of 1848. After the 
pipe had gone round, Carson heard himself discussed as a 
prospective victim ; whereupon, when his treacherous guests, 
not knowing him and not suspecting that he understood 
their words, had said their say, he arose, to accuse them. 

Of his fifteen men only two were dependable. One, a 
Canadian, Pete, afterwards narrated to Dr. Peters: 

Why, Kit knew just what was to be done, and did it, too. 
With any other man, we would have gone under. The Indians 
were more afraid of him than all the rest of us put together. 
There were red fellows enough there to eat us up, and at one 
time I could almost feel my hair leaving my head. We had 
two women traveling with us, and their crying made me feel 
so bad that I was sartin there was no fight in me. Women are 
poor plunder to have along when going out on a war party, but 
Kit talked to them and then to the Indians, and put them both 
finally on the right trail. Wagh! But them were ticklish 
times ! 

After having been reminded by Carson who he was, and 
how at Bent's Fort and elsewhere their nation had accepted 
his hospitality, the Cheyennes sullenly withdrew, to recover 
from their astonishment and to consult further. Ere their 
return, the train had been put in motion, and under cover 
of night Carson had dispatched a Mexican boy, on foot, for 
Rayado, over 200 miles south, with word to the dragoons 
stationed there. 


On the second day, back came the Cheyennes, as if on mis- 
chief bent. They were told that the express had been sent, 
and that if harm happened to the train the soldiers would 
know just whom to punish. The wily Indians replied that 
they would look for moccasin tracks, and see whether the 
words were true. They found the messenger's tracks lead- 
ing south from the late camp; and they promptly made 
tracks themselves for cover in the hills. The train was not 
troubled again especially as the relief from Rayado met it 
near Bent's Fort, to escort it on. 

About the same time, or in July of 1851, Lieutenant Colo- 
nel Edwin Vinton Sumner succeeded, in command of the 
Department of New Mexico, the bluff soldier, Colonel John 
Munroe. " His orders were to cut down the expenses of all 
branches, both military and civil," runs the lore of New 
Mexican pioneers. Probably acting upon this plan, he 
appointed Carson purchasing agent, at the Rayado post, for 
the Utes and the Apaches who were being supplied with 
rations from there. Maxwell, the trader, must have had the 
contract for supplies, and Carson could work well in con- 
junction with him, and not be dishonest. The Government 
could have had no better agent than Kit Carson and 
never did. 150 

In the spring or fall of 1852 Carson, as if seeking 
variation, led a company of retired trappers upon an old- 
time beaver hunt. The streams long had been neglected, 
save by a few recluse mountain men whom nothing could 
tempt therefrom, and nothing discourage. Consequently the 
hunt was a success the more so, of course, because many 
of the trappers felt that it was their last. The emigrant 
was invading the Platte and the Green; around the Salt 
Lake were the Mormons ; the plains were alive with wagons ; 
there was talk of a Kansas and a Nebraska in the Great 
American Desert; old Fort Laramie and Fort Hall were 
" busted " ; old Bent's had been " wiped out " blown to 


smithereens by the colonel ; the days that were could never 
come again, except in pretense. 

In the early summer of 1853 Carson and Maxwell 
embarked in the speculation of driving sheep overland to 
California, there to sell them on the hoof. Below Santa Fe 
they bought some ten or twelve thousand, and with a band 
of sixty-five hundred, Carson started ahead, by way of the 
Laramie and the Salt Lake Trail. The northern route of 
course promised more water and feed; but that he and his 
herders managed to get the shaggy flock through the thou- 
sand miles of perils by Indian, desert, and storm, is another 
tribute to his absolute knowledge of western ways and 
means. By careful treatment of the aborigines especially, 
and due observance of their requirements as to toll, he landed 
his sheep, with little loss, on the Sacramento. They brought 
$5.50 a head. Maxwell, following by the same trail, was 
equally successful. 

They found many changes in California, since the old 
days of the Fremont incursion and the Bear War. The 
miserable hamlet of Yerba Buena, which in January, 1847, 
under its new name had a population of 479, now in 1853, 
after being four times burned, had a population of 40,000 
and in tonnage of its shipping ranked only after New York 
and New Orleans. The barren waste adjoining Sutter's 
Fort was covered by a mushroom growth equally wonder- 
ful the tents and shanties and business blocks of 12,000 
people collected to make Sacramento City. All the hills 
amidst which the Fremont men had ridden, seeing only 
Indians and wild horses and deer, were populous with the 
white race ; and the straggling Pueblo de los Angeles, out of 
which in May, 1848, Carson had ridden with Lieutenant 
Brewerton, now was a chartered American city of 2,000 

Friends Carson probably found. Fremont, late senator 
from California, was in the East, having just returned from 


Europe to outfit his fifth and last expedition, which would 
take him through the Great Basin again and to the coast. 151 
But Godey was in the state; Lieutenant Beale, as Indian 
Agent newly appointed, arrived at Los Angeles, August 22 ; 
and while near San Francisco Carson met an old mountain- 
man crony and Taos fellow citizen, Jacob Beard, fanning. 

" Kit, on seeing you I feel homesick," he exclaimed, " and 
I think I ought to go back with you." Carson became sym- 
pathetic at once, and said : " Well, Jake, we have only one 
life to live, and in living it we should make the most of our 

Whereupon for Mr. Beard " that settled the matter. I 
returned to the ranch, adjusted my affairs, saddled my mule, 
caught up with Carson's party, went back to New Mexico, 
and lived there for many years afterward." 152 

This expedition from the Rio Grande to the coast, with 
the sheep, and back was Kit Carson's last journey overland 
west the last of those long trails, by pass and desert, 
w^hich had occupied his time so much during twenty-five 
years. He was now forty- four, and in his prime; but he 
had drained the best that the adventurous West might offer, 
and although government columns on half a dozen lines were 
traversing the country, seeking that Pacific Railroad which 
yet was distant almost a decade and a half, either he was 
not offered the post of guide, or else he declined it. A 
better occupation was awaiting him. The return was evi- 
dently uneventful, and arrived in Santa Fe he received the 
welcome news, communicated by the delegate from the Utah 
Territory to Congress, that he had been appointed United 
States Agent for Ute Indians " probably the most 
difficult Indians to manage within the territory." 


ARSON'S affairs at the Rayado were such that he could 
easily leave them (and frequently he had left them), 
in order to administer officially in Taos. Now for the ensu- 
ing eight years he had office and home in Taos. Indeed, 
Taos always may be considered as his home after his boy- 
hood in Missouri. It was the center around which he re- 
volved and whither he returned from his excursions. From 
time to time he had temporary quarters elsewhere trap- 
per quarters, scout quarters, ranch quarters, army quarters; 
but he was a Taosan from 1827 until the close of his life; 
and at Taos is his grave, today. 

At the time of the advancement of Carson to the agency 
of the Utes and Apaches, the National Government was 
face to face with the Indian problem, which to this day 
never has been solved. In the Southwest the American 
soldiers had planted a new flag whose principles were as 
new, had brought new ideas to be enforced among an old 
race, and had made new regulations for a people hitherto 
unregulated. The mettle of red and white was to be tried 
out. And into the West, into the region by solemn pledge 
given to the Indian and " forever secured and guaranteed " 
to him against encroachment by alien, was pressing at last 
the white settler. 

For a dozen years, he had been crossing, in constantly 
increasing numbers, with his teams and his firearms and his 
foreign virtues and vices, grazing upon the Indian's grass, 
burning the Indian's fuel, eating the Indian's game or driv- 
ing it away, shooting the Indian himself when necessity or 



convenience demanded, and scattering among the natives 
" loathsome diseases, unknown in their primitive state/' 
Still, amidst his unavailing protests the Indian had been 
recognized, in the letter if not in the spirit of the law, as 
proprietor of his own allotted territory. 

But the crest of the westward rolling wave representing 
civilization was towering above the fictitious barrier erected 
in 1835 by President Jackson that barrier, between the 
United States at the Missouri and the Great American 
Desert beyond and the white spray was dashing over and 
on. The closer the Great American Desert was viewed, the 
more attractive did it appear; and in 1852 the inevitable was 
recognized : 

One thing is certain, the condition of the various tribes 
located on the western border of Missouri will be speedily 
changed, and now is the time to determine what is best to 
be done for their future welfare. * * * The border tribes 
themselves are well aware of the fact, that there is no resting 
place for them, under the existing order of things; and this 
knowledge has had a most unhappy effect upon them. When 
urged to turn their attention to agricultural or mechanical 
pursuits, they invariably reply : " What is the use of it ? In a 
few more years we will be driven back into the plains, or the 
Rocky Mountains; and what will our knowledge of agricul- 
ture, or the mechanic arts, avail us on the prairies, or in the 
Rocky Mountains?" 153 

In 1851 was signed at Fort Laramie the first great treaties 
by which the plains Indians began to relinquish the rights 
guaranteed to them forever. Agent Fitzpatrick's Chey- 
ennes and Arapahos, the Shoshoni, the Sioux, the Black- 
feet, and the Crows agreed to let the army in and to let 
the emigrant through. In 1853 Fitzpatrick met the Co- 
manches and Apaches at Fort Atkinson on the Santa Fe 
Trail in present southern Kansas, wheedling them, persuad- 
ing them, making " a renewal of faith, which the Indians did 
not have in the Government, nor the Government in them." 


So the frontier of a quarter-century duration, as if over- 
weighted by the yearly emigrant rendezvous, sorely pressed 
at the center bulged outward, threatening to break upon the 
easternmost tribes, and to the whites already wrestling 
with the red man's ethical nature add those who would 
encroach upon his worldly treasures as well. 

By order of Congress new treaties were made for trea- 
ties with the Indians are never exhausted. Commissioner 
George A. Manypenny himself spent much of the summer of 
1853 holding councils with the various tribes, laboriously 
explaining why the old promises were worn out and why 
fresh ones were better. This explaining was polite, but per- 
functory. Shawnee and Kickapoo, Sac and Fox, Omaha 
and Wea, yes, Arapaho, Pawnee, Cheyenne, and Ute were 
already evicted, and the Manypenny and the Fitzpatrick 
excuses, the sounding responses from chief high and low, all 
the pipes smoked, all the presents given, all the indentures 
exchanged, only joined other chips carried with that current 
which no chips could stem. The Indian of the West has 
had the westerner's choice : " If you do n't like bacon, help 
yourself to the peppersass." 

So in the spring of 1854 they sign their " articles of agree- 
ment and convention ; " they sign 

the Omaha, Ottoe and Missouria, Sac and Fox of Missouri, 
Iowa, Kickapoo, Delaware, Shawnee, Kaskaskia, Peoria, Wea, 
Piankeshaw, and Miami Indian, all residing within the central 
superintendency. * * * These tribes possessed lands bounded 
on the east by the western boundaries of the States of Mis- 
souri and Iowa, and lying between the parallels of 37 and 42 
40' north latitude, embracing, in the aggregate, nearly 
15,000,000 acres, all of which, with the exception of about 
1,342,000 acres, being the amount of their several reservations, 
was ceded to the government. * * * 

In the recent negotiations for their lands the Indians dwelt 
upon the former pledges and promises made to them, and 
were averse generally to the surrender of any portion of their 


country. They said that they were to have the land " as long 
as grass grew or water run," and they feared the result if 
they should consent to yield any part of their possessions. 
When they did consent to sell, it was only on the condition 
that each tribe should retain a portion of their tract as a 
permanent home. All were unitedly and firmly opposed to 
another removal. * * * 

There they stand, the representatives and remnants of tribes 
once as powerful and dreaded as they are now weak and 
dispirited. By alternate persuasion and force, some of these 
tribes have been removed, step by step, from mountain to 
valley, and from river to plain, until they have been pushed 
half-way across the continent. They can go no further ; on the 
ground they now occupy the crisis must be met, and their 
future determined. Among them may be found the educated, 
civilized, and converted Indian, the benighted and inveterate 
heathen, and every intermediate grade. But there they are, and 
as they are, with outstanding obligations in their behalf of the 
most solemn and imperative character, voluntarily assumed 
by the government. 154 

Yes, there they are ; but the " crisis " which so stirred the 
Honorable Commissioner George W. Manypenny could 
scarcely be expected to create much of a furor in the halls 
of Congress where the red complexion of the debatable 
country was of far less moment than whether the complex- 
ion should be white or black; where, indeed, the resolution 
introduced by Senator Augustus C. Dodge of Iowa, organiz- 
ing the territory of Nebraska to extend from the latitude of 
New Mexico north to 43 30', in present South Dakota, 
from Iowa and Missouri west to the mountains, did pro- 
vide that nothing in the act " be construed to impair the 
right of persons or property now pertaining to the Indians 
in that territory, so long as such rights shall remain unex- 
tinguished by treaty between the United States and such 
Indians" : but where, this phase considered to be settled by 
the customary temporizing, the great Douglas was thunder- 
ing in defense of his compromise Kansas-Nebraska Bill and 


" squatter sovereignty " ; where Chase and Sumner were de- 
nouncing the waiving of the Missouri Compromise line (the 
slave-district boundary of 36 30') as " a gross violation of 
a sacred pledge," " criminal betrayal of precious rights," an 
" atrocious plot to exclude from a vast unoccupied region 
emigrants from the old world, and free laborers from our 
own states, and to convert it into a dreary region of despo- 
tism, inhabited by masters and slaves"; and where (the 
pledge referred to looming above pledges forgotten) " the 
struggle * * * on the one side and the other in regard 
to this measure, heated and made more intense by so con- 
stant appeals from without, made by memorials, public 
meetings, and newspaper arguments, was carried on with a 
vehemence and passion rarely exhibited in deliberative 
bodies." 155 

A small chance there was for that innocent bystander, the 
Indian! And when, on May 30, 1854, the bill was signed 
creating out of that pleasant fiction the Indian Territory 
( " forever secured and guaranteed " ) the territories of 
Kansas and Nebraska, the same signature dissipated the 
Indian. The white man had assumed control of the Great 
American Desert. 

The organization of the Indian country into the Kansas 
and Nebraska territories affected Kit Carson only in that 
when it threw open the land, it threw open also the ques- 
tion : " What shall be done with the red man ? " As Indian 
Agent, Carson now was called upon to add his opinions to 
the thousand other opinions, of which two rarely were har- 
monious. He had returned to Taos. The first year, of 
his seven years and a half, as agent, was 1854. In this year 
the hundred thousand buffalo robes descending the Missouri 
and the Platte were met by the inflowing five thousand set- 
tlers with their cattle; in reports to fill twelve volumes the 
various army officers detailed to make transcontinental sur- 
veys for a future Pacific Railroad were asserting the news 


(which was to Kit Carson and many another no news at all) 
that the continent was traversable. 

Meanwhile, as a cog in the new machine which is being 
adjusted, Carson at Taos is agent over two tribes. He suc- 
ceeds John Greiner, advanced to become secretary of state. 
The corps of 1854, in the honorable Indian service of New 
Mexico Territory was : Superintendent ex offrcio, at Santa 
Fe, Governor David Merri wether; agent of the Navajos, at 
Fort Defiance, H. L. Dodge; agent of the Southern Apaches, 
at Dona Ana, E. A. Graves ; agent of the Capote and Tabu- 
ache Utes, at Abiquiu, James M. Smith soon succeeded by 
Lorenzo Labadie; agent of the Jicarilla Apaches and 
Mohuache Utes, at Taos, Christopher Carson. 

It seemed as though Carson was now fitted into his niche. 
He certainly was a man who understood Indians even felt 
at home with Indians ; and he was a man whom the Indians 
understood, and with whom they felt at home. Here in 
Taos, with his family and friends, and amidst familiar 
scenes, comfortable in his salary of $1,000, his many years 
of activity an inexhaustible resource upon which to draw, 
and the country roundabout suiting his mode of life, Carson 
held to his agency, and outlasted all his colleagues with 
whom he started. Governors changed, superintendents 
changed, agents changed, but he stuck fast. 

At the close of 1856 the Jicarillas seem to have been 
transferred to the Abiquiu agency, and the Tabuache Utes 
attached to the Taos agency. The Carson reports are 
uniformly headed " Utah Agency." 

As to the Utes in general and the Jicarilla Apaches with 
whom the Mohuache Utes, particularly, affiliated in deeds 
of outlawry, Superintendent Merri wether reports in 1854: 

The Utahs of New Mexico are a portion of the tribe of 
the same name inhabiting the Territory of Utah ; they speak 
the same language and have frequent intercourse with each 
other. From the best information which I have been able 


to obtain, that portion of the tribe properly under the charge 
of this superintendency numbers between five and six thousand 
souls ; and they inhabit and claim all of that region of country 
embracing the sources of the northwestern tributaries of the 
Arkansas River, above Bent's Fort, up to the southern 
boundary of Utah territory, and all the northern tributaries 
of the Rio Grande which lie within New Mexico and north 
of the 37th parallel of latitude. This country is estimated 
to cover a space equal to twenty thousand square miles, which 
would give about five square miles to each soul ; but they often 
extend their wanderings beyond these limits. This is a highly 
warlike tribe of Indians, are well-armed with fire-arms, and 
have committed many depredations upon the unoffending 
inhabitants of New Mexico. They do not cultivate the soil, 
but depend upon the chase and robbery for a subsistence. A 
continued feud has existed between the Utahs on the one 
side, and the Arapahoes and Cheyennes of the Arkansas on 
the other, for many years past ; but latterly, the latter Indians, 
having been supplied with arms and ammunition by our 
Indian agents and traders, have proved more than a match 
for the former, and consequently the Utahs dare not visit the 
buffalo regions in search of food. This, together with the fact 
that game is becoming comparatively scarce in their country, 
has induced if not constrained the Utahs to keep up their 
ancient custom of theft and robbery. 

The Utahs are probably the most difficult Indians to manage 
within the territory. They are subdivided into several small 
bands under petty chiefs, who acknowledge no superior, and 
roam over a vast extent of country, having no permanent places 
of residence, and hence are often difficult to be found. Occa- 
sionally, parties will come into the settlements and labor for 
the citizens for a short time, particularly in threshing out 
the grain, which they are enabled to do with their own horses 
and mules ; they then leave, and nothing more is heard of them 
for months. They * * * are always ready for mischief, 
and hard to overtake in a retreat. Many of this tribe are 
understood to have made common cause with the Jicarillas in 
their recent difficulties. * * * They now profess to be 
friendly with us, but little confidence is to be placed in their 

professions at any time. 

* * #'******* 

The Jicarilla Apaches * * * claim a region of country 


of indefinite space, lying west of the Rio Grande and on the 
head of the Chama and Puerco rivers, but they roam over 
other portions of the territory. It is confidently believed that no 
other single band of Indians have committed an equal amount 
of depredations upon, and caused so much trouble and annoy- 
ance to the people of this territory, as the Jicarillas. They 
are supposed to number about one hundred and fifty warriors, 
and probably five hundred souls ; they own a large number of 
horses and mules, and whenever there is any mischief brew- 
ing, invariably have a hand in it. * * * They rely upon 
the chase for a subsistence; and when this fails resort to 
depredations upon the flocks and herds of the inhabitants. 

At the time of Kit Carson's accession to the fatherhood 
of the Mohuache Ute and Jicarilla Apache bands, annual 
reports upon some 350,000 Indians were being handed in 
by loo agents, teachers, and superintendents. 

The Carson report for 1853 is lacking in the fifty published 
volumes, entitled Indian Affairs. He first reports " for 
the present month/' September 26, 1855, confining himself 
chiefly to an attack by Indians in his district upon Mexican 
herders near Mora: and the theft of some twelve head of 
cattle (valued at $12 a head) from the Maxwell Ranch, and 
to the rescue by Mexicans of Mexican prisoners. 

The Indians that are now committing depredations are those 
who lost their families during the war [i. e., probably the 
campaign declared in 1854 against the Jicarillas and allies by 
the Government]. They consider they have nothing farther to 
live for than revenge for the death of those of their families 
that were killed by the whites ; they have become desperate ; 
when they will ask for peace I cannot say. 

Respectfully submitted. 

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient 

Indian Agent. 

To the report Superintendent Merriwether affixes the 
mild reproof : "Mr. Carson does not inform me what 


Indians committed these depredations, though the last part 
of his report would leave the impression that they were com- 
mitted by the Jicarilla Apaches. * * * It is to be 
regretted that Agent Carson did not ascertain from the 
prisoners what Indians they were." 

This Carson probably did; rather, certainly he did; it 
would be one of the first details babbled by the mouths of the 
frightened fugitives, and passed from mouth to mouth by 
the other Mexicans. But in his unaccustomed dictation he 
left it out. 

The Carson reports as agent at Taos appear in 1855, are 
omitted in 1856, resumed in 1857, and continue to 1861. 
The reports are signed (with slight variation) " I have the 
honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant, C. 
Carson." In addition to preparing the reports, he must dis- 
tribute and otherwise account for the annuities blankets, 
knives, powder, paint, provisions; must act as judge, jury 
and tribal parent; must pay visits, and must satisfy both 
the governmental red tape and the aboriginal ideas, equally 
as rigid and peculiar. 

The Carson home was at the northeast corner of the Taos 
plaza that central square which in all frontier Mexican 
towns indicated the original corral whither the community 
animals were driven at night. The house stands today; a 
low one-story, flat-roofed " adobe," continuous with other 
houses forming a solid line, and having the customary 
veranda, supported by poles, along the front. Here lived 
Kit Carson, his wife, and their increasing family. 156 

The official agency quarters were halfway around the 
plaza, on the south side being a single room in the row of 
adobes there. But the Indians, growing to trust their agent 
and being emboldened more and more to seek the town, on 
chance of gaining some point, frequented home and office 

The only fly in the ointment was the clerical duties con- 


nected with the office. At this time Kit Carson could 
sign his name having been instructed in that while 
an army officer in California, and later by his wife; but 
beyond this, "reading, writing, and (save in its simplest 
form) arithmetic " were a terra incognita. 157 With fatu- 
ous and apparently suspicious insistency the Government 
required from all its agents a regular accounting; and to 
fill out the forms, to make out an annual, much more a 
monthly report, seriously bothered Carson. 

However, he got around this difficulty without formal 
confession or requisition for a go-between. The Govern- 
ment did allow interpreters but not for the clerical role 
which would have appealed to Carson. 158 Accordingly, in 
the matter of the monthly reports upon his Indian charges 
he reported in person and by word of mouth at Santa Fe. 
A letter to the author from Captain Smith Simpson says : 

Kit would go to Santa Fe six or eight times a year. In the 
office of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs there was a 
man named John Ward a very intelligent man. I think that 
he wrote Kit's monthly reports and dated them " Taos." I 
do not remember to have written any reports except the quar- 
terly accountings covering the money on hand and the money 
expended for corn, wheat, sheep and beef. 159 

Possibly it was through John Ward that, previous to 
young Smith Simpson's appearance in Taos, Agent Carson 
managed his quarterly accountings also; possibly Ceran St. 
Vrain may have helped. Then when, in the summer of 
1855, the campaign against the Utes and Jicarillas having 
been finished, Sergeant Smith H. Simpson, of the volun- 
teers from Santa Fe, was mustered out in Taos and con- 
cluded to stay there, Carson's accountings were simplified. 
Young Simpson, aged twenty-two, came opportunely into 
Kit Carson's life. He was also a welcome adjunct to the 
English-speaking society in Taos. While thereafter Carson 


did the quarterly dictating, young Simpson did the figuring ; 
and from this partnership between young New Yorker and 
older mountain man evolved the first (or what is claimed to 
be the first) Kit Carson photograph. 

Photographs (daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes) 
became the fashion, it would seem, following the Mexican 
War; and during the period from 1845 to I ^^o there 
appeared what now are our most valued mementoes of 
many frontiersmen. Jim Bridger, William Sublette, the 
Bents, Ceran St. Vrain, and their comrade veterans sat be- 
fore the novel lens. But with typical aversion to publicity, 
and with almost Indian suspicion, some refused, among 
them being for many years Kit Carson, until in 1860 he had 
to make a virtue of necessity. The time had waxed until 
that bugbear, a government quarterly report, must be 
tackled ; and Carson mildly suggested that they get to work. 
Simpson blandly returned that inasmuch as Carson would 
not favor him by having that picture taken, he did not know 
that he could set his hand to writing. 

" Come along, then," bade Carson, accepting the Simpson 
challenge ; and together they went to the little gallery, where 
before that mysterious " machine " to which, Carson had 
declared, he would prefer the " cannon's mouth," they singly 
posed. " That was December, 1860," writes Captain Simp- 
son, now half a century after. " It cost me $7.50, for Kit's 
and my own taken at the same time." 16 

In the real and active duties of his agency, Kit Carson 
was thoroughly at home. No white man could better have 
interpreted to the Indians the Government, or to the Gov- 
ernment the Indian. This was a matter independent of pen 
and paper. The selection of the Utes as Carson's charges 
was particularly happy; with the Utes he was thoroughly 
familiar, and, in addition, there was mutual respect. They 
knew him by tradition and by actual experience; he knew 
them, as repeats General Rusling in 1866, for " the bravest 



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and best Red Skins he had ever met, in all his wide wander- 
ings." Said General Sherman at the same time : 

" These Red Skins think Kit twice as big a man as me. 
Why, his integrity is simply perfect. They know it, and 
they would believe him and trust him any day before me." 

And in his report of 1857 Carson refers to the Tabuaches 
as being " by far the most noble of the Utah tribes," and the 
Mohuaches as " the most noble and virtuous tribe within 
our Territory." 

Entire harmony seems to have prevailed between Carson 
and the Utes, when he could get at them and reason with 
them. The Apaches were " truly the most degraded and 
troublesome Indians we have in our department " ; " we 
daily witness them in a state of intoxication in our plaza"; 
to them he was "Kit," but to the Utes he was not only " Kit," 
but " Father Kit " and " Uncle Kit." 

The Carson Indian policy would endorse the theory of 
segregation from the whites, and of pride in work. How- 
ever, the Government's early experiments with the native 
westerner, whom it displaced by the imported easterner, 
were vacillating and unfortunate. 

Having deprived them of most that made existence [i. e., 
in the old way and accustomed way] possible, it took great 
satisfaction in furnishing a substitute, in the form of a ration 
system under which all Indians who were good in other 
words, who stayed on their reservations and abstained from 
violence would receive at stated intervals so many pounds 
of meat, of beans, of flour, of sugar and other edibles. * * * 
Nothing was demanded of the Indians in return except that 
they obey their Agents and keep quiet. It is true that salaried 
farmers were sent to the reservations to instruct them in agri- 
culture, and that tools and fencing were offered them as 
rewards of industry; but what was to be gained by being 
industrious if one could live on the fat of the land without 
stirring a muscle in labor? Satan's proverbial gift for find- 
ing mischief for idle hands to do came promptly into play, 
and the idle hands of the Indians soon learned to reach for 


the whiskey bottle. Hence it came that a people once vigorous, 
strong-willed, untiring on the trail of anything they wanted, 
became debauched by a compulsory life of sloth, and within 
a single generation acquired among the whites a reputation 
for laziness, incompetence, and general degradation. 161 

This criticism, and more, Carson and a few of his asso- 
ciate agents proclaimed, earnestly, fifty years preceding. For 
his Mohuache Utes Carson advises, in his annual report, 
date August 29, 1857 : 

Humanity, as well as our desire to benefit the Indian race, 
demands that they be removed as far as practicable from the 
settlements. Have farmers, mechanics, etc., placed among 
them to give instruction in the manner of cultivating the soil 
to gain their subsistence, and learn them to make the neces- 
sary implements to carry on said labor. They would, in a 
few years, be able to support themselves, and not be, as at 
present, a burden on the general government. It is true much 
could not be expected of the present generation, for they have 
been accustomed to gain their maintenance by the chase and 
robberies committed on the neighboring tribes and the whites. 
But if the rising generation be taught to maintain themselves 
by honest labor, in their manhood they will not depart there- 
from, and will feel proud in being able to instruct their chil- 
dren the manner of maintaining themselves in an honest way. 
Troops, for a period of time, should be stationed near them, 
for the purpose of protecting them from hostile tribes, and 
also show them that the government has the power to cause 
them to remain on the lands given them and not to encroach 
on that of their neighbors. 

In the annual report of 1858, Agent Carson would explain 
that " it is impossible to give, as required by communication 
from the Department of the Interior, dated July n, 1857, 
the exact number of Indians under my charge. They live 
in parties of ten to twenty lodges, and have no permanent 
residence. In agricultural or mechanical pursuits there are 
none engaged; by the chase, and with what is given them 


by the United States and its citizens, they maintain them- 
selves." And he adds, as if responding to another sugges- 

It would promote the advance of civilization among the 
Indians of this agency if it were practicable that I could live 
with them. They have no particular place to reside, are of a 
roving nature, and an agent could not be with them at all 
times, so I have selected this place as the most proper for 
them to receive such presents of food as they need, and such 
will necessarily be the case until the agency buildings are 
built. The Indians should be settled on reserves, guarded by 
troops, made to cultivate the soil, because the required amount 
of provisions to be given them cannot be procured at any of 
the frontier settlements. * * * 

To keep the Indians from committing depredations on citi- 
zens, food by the government must be furnished them, and 
liberally, there being no game of any consequence in the 
country through which they roam. 

Thus the annuities were becoming only briberies, and 
none knew it better than the Indians themselves. If they 
were to be made dependents, the people which so decreed 
should pay a price ! 

During the year the Indians committed few depredations; 
they stole some animals from the Mexicans, and the Mexicans 
also stole some from them. The Indians gave me the animals 
stolen by them, and I made the Mexicans return the animals 
they had stolen, thus satisfying both parties. 

I have visited the Indians as often as necessary during the 
year, and given them such articles as they required, principally 
provisions. It being thought that the Utahs would join the 
Mormons in their opposition to the entry of the United States 
troops into Great Salt Lake City, I caused the allowance of 
their provisions to be increased, to prevent such a course 
being pursued by them. No Utah, as far as I know, aided the 
Mormons. 162 

Carson's September, 1859, annual report from Taos, to 
Superintendent J. L. Collins at Santa Fe, includes : 


The two bands of the Muahuaches and Tobawatches, so far 
as regards their numerical strength, are on the decline, and 
the causes of this decrease in population are disease and fre- 
quent conflicts with other warlike tribes. 

If any improvement has been made in their condition or 
prospects, it is not perceptible. They are, at the present day, 
as uncivilized as when the government first took them under 
her care, and it is my opinion they will remain in the same 
state until they shall be settled on reserves, and compelled to 
cultivate the soil for their maintenance. Not having the least 
particle of the pride of self-support about them, they will 
continue to sink deeper into degradation, so long as a generous 
government, or their habits of begging and stealing, afford 
them a means of subsistence. I have, heretofore, recom- 
mended that they be settled on farms, and I am still satisfied 
that it is the only practicable mode of reclaiming them from 
their barbarous condition. 

The report refers to hostilities commenced in July against 
gold hunters of the Valle Salado for into South Park of 
the Colorado soon to be, had penetrated the white roamer, 
disturbing with pick and shovel the ground long sacred to 
Ute dead, with rifle and voice disturbing the game long 
sacred to Ute living advises that no troops have yet been 
furnished in response to the call for protection to the tres- 
passers, and warns : 

The consequences arising from letting these Indians go 
unpunished will be injurious. Other bands of Indians, seeing 
that depredations are committed by these with impunity, will 
soon follow the example so much in accordance with their 
habits and inclinations, and will only remain quiet so long as 
it suits their convenience. 163 

The last Carson report, that of August 29, 1860, reiter- 
ates the opinion of 1857: 

In my opinion, the best policy the government can adopt 
in the regulation and management of these two bands of 


Utahs would be to have them settled upon reserves, and fur- 
nished with a few good farmers and mechanics, who could 
and would instruct them in husbandry and the mechanic arts. 
Their minds are tractable, and capable of receiving impres- 
sions which would in a comparatively short time, under judi- 
cious training, enable them to obtain an honest subsistence 
for themselves and families. It is true that the older members 
of the tribes, who are confirmed in their present habits of life, 
might be obstinate in their resistance to the change ; but they, 
in the course of nature, must pass away in a few years, and 
the young generation which is now growing up to take their 
places, can be educated in such a manner as to make them 
submit to the habits and customs of civilized life with facility. 
To effect this reformation will be required the labor of years, 
but, in my opinion, would in the end prove a measure of 

economy to the government and a blessing to the Indians. 

If some policy of this kind is not adopted by the govern- 
ment, and if provisions are not furnished them in sufficient 
quantities to sustain them during the winter months, they 
will be reduced to the necessity of thieving and robbing. Their 
game being killed or driven off, nothing better can reasonably 
be expected from them. In a few years, if allowed to roam 
at large and visit the settlements at pleasure, they will become 
victims to intemperance and its concomitant vices, which will 
reduce them to a condition of great depravity. Humanity 
demands that this fate should be averted from them, and it 
can only be avoided by setting them apart to themselves, agri- 
cultural instruments given them, and proper instruction 

imparted to them, as before mentioned. 

** ******** 

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant, 

United States Indian Agent. 164 

In his correspondence Agent Carson presented no start- 
ling theories; he, perhaps unwittingly, advocated a system 
even then being tried farther east, where earnest, self-sacri- 
ficing people were endeavoring in school and field to make 
the Indian conscious of the responsibilities which he faced. 
Reservations had been set aside; farmer and mechanic 


teachers had been provided; tribes had been allotted their 
own tracts, to do thereon and therewith as their judgment 
might incline. But (save the usual exceptions) with all 
these thus early started upon the white man's road, as with 
Carson's Utes, Steck's Apaches, Fitzpatrick's and Bent's 
Cheyennes and Arapahos, the result was the same. The 
signposts of the white man's road appealing most to the red 
man were the white man's vices, not the white man's virtues. 
And at the close of his days Kit Carson himself, having wit- 
nessed the best plans of a mighty government apparently 
nullified by the machinations of unscrupulous servants of 
that government, could only blame the conditions upon 
" bad white men," and lament that the end was as the end 
must be. 


KIT CARSON, as " father " to the Indians, did not find it 
possible to spare the rod. Among the mesas and hills 
to the immediate west and northwest was Chico Velasquez, 
the Apache, head of a long line of chiefs Blanco, Chacon, 
Mangas Colorado (Red Sleeves), Cochise, Delgadito (The 
Slender), Cuchillo Negro (Black Knife) who in Car- 
son's time led upon vengeful foray Jicarilla, Mescalero, 
Coyotero, Mimbreno, Pinal, Chiricahui, and other tribes still 
smarting from the wholesale murders by Kirker's and John- 
son's scalp hunters, and smarting also from the alleged 
injustice of not being allowed to kill Mexicans as of yore. 

From 1850 through more than a third of a century the 
story of the Southwest is the story of incessant war, mainly 
with the Apache. Carson entered with the first chapter; 
but the volume writ in blood, its tale the cruelty of man 
to man, continued long after he had been retired perma- 
nently from the scenes. 

By 1854 the army had already started its series of historic 
outposts which were to be oases in the midst of the threat- 
ening desolation. After old Marcy at Santa Fe, there were 
erected, to protect the Southwest, forts Yuma and Union: 
the one located in California, facing the mouth of the Gila, 
where the emigrant trail crossed the Colorado; the other, 
built in 1851, in the opposite corner, on the Santa Fe Trail 
100 miles northeast of Santa Fe, fifty miles southeast of 
Taos, and maintained as headquarters of the Northern Mili- 
tary District of New Mexico. The line of posts stretched 
down along the Rio Grande to the border; .they spread on 



either side into Apache country, and sent skirmishers into 
the north among the Navajos and the Utes. So that now 
in 1854 there were forts Marcy and Union; Cantonment 
Burgwin, nine miles north of Taos, and named for the gal- 
lant captain who fell before Big Nigger's bullet, at the bat- 
tle of Taos Pueblo; Fort Massachusetts, in the midst of the 
San Luis Valley, which is Colorado; Fort Defiance, in the 
Navajo country, which is Arizona; forts Craig, Thorn, Fill- 
more, and Bliss, on the lower Rio Grande, reaching to the 
Texas line ; and garrisons at the Rayado, Albuquerque, Las 
Lunas (Los Lunas) below, and Tucson; while Fort Con- 
rad at Valverde below Socorro (first battle field of New 
Mexico in the Civil War), Fort Webster at the Copper 
Mines, long sacred to Apache rule, the towns of Ciboletta, 
Socorro, Taos, Dona Ana, El Paso, San Elizario, Las Vegas, 
Abiquiu, and others, had borne the Flag. Thus swiftly had 
marched in the American soldier where a decade before the 
only law was the wild will of the Apache, Ute, and Navajo. 

Commanding the district of New Mexico was Colonel 
Thomas T. Fauntleroy of the First Dragoons. John Mun- 
roe, the martinet, Sumner, the distinguished, Fauntleroy, 
Garland, Bonneville, the mountain man soldier, Loring, the 
one-armed adviser of the Khedive, Canby, the victim of the 
lava beds, Carleton, the indefatigable; under these depart- 
ment commanders Carson served in border warfare. 

Shudder as we may at the atrocities of the Apache, we 
must remember that it was broken faith which brought on 
the campaign that really opened the war. For in his initial 
report, from the palace at Santa Fe, September i, 1854, 
Governor David Merriwether says, criticising a compact 
which he discovers as an onus upon the office : 

It will be found that my predecessor, on the part of the 
United States, contracted with the Indians that they, and 
all others who should join in it, should be supplied with food, 
to consist of corn, beef and salt, for that current year and the 


year 1854, and to give them a reasonable amount of food (of 
which the agent was to be the judge) for three years there- 
after, and also brood-mares, etc., etc. 

The thirteenth article stipulates that this compact shall have 
no validity until approved by the authority of the United 
States; but before any approval on the part of the United 
States, my predecessor proceeded to carry it into effect, by 
assembling and locating a large number of these Indians on 
two farms situated near Fort Webster and the town of Abiquiu, 
employed farmers and laborers, and supplied all the Indians 
assembled with provisions. These steps so taken in com- 
pliance with the compact doubtless led the Indians to suppose 
that a ratification on the part of the United States had been 
received, nor am I informed of their having been undeceived 
previous to my arrival in the territory. 

Confronted with the fact that not only were all the funds, 
save $3,000, for contingent expenses of Indian Affairs in 
New Mexico exhausted, but that there were claims of $10,- 
ooo against the office; and that the compact itself not only 
had been left unratified but had been disapproved by the 
Government, Superintendent Merriwether must perforce 
break to the touchy Jicarillas the delicate news that it was all 
a mistake and that they would cease to be supplied with 
food. Consequently, not understanding, and not choosing 
to understand, the complicated methods of the new land- 
lord whose every change of " father " meant a change of 
policy, the Apache took umbrage. For after all, he was of 
that savage simplicity which accepts the deed for the word. 

It is due to these Indians that I should say, that the want 
of ability on my part to carry into effect the stipulations con- 
tained in the compact heretofore alluded to, left them in a 
destitute condition. 

I have found it difficult, if not impossible, to make the 
Indians comprehend how it is, that previous to my arrival 
in this country this compact was being executed on our part, 
and that their rations should be stopped so soon thereafter. 


When I explain the thirteenth article to them, and inform 
them that my government, so far from ratifying, had disap- 
proved it entirely, they then ask how it was that their former 
Father could satisfy them with food and carry the compact 
into effect, whilst their present Father could not. When I 
say to them that I had no money to purchase presents and 
provisions with, their reply is, how did their former Father 
get money for this purpose? 165 

The produce of the two farms being sufficient for only 
a few weeks' subsistence, there the Apache was moved from 
his hunting grounds, and given naught in their place. For 
this apparent trickery he made the Government pay dearly, 
the saving in the department resulting in the loss to the New 
Mexican people, September, 1853, to September, 1854, of 
" between forty and fifty thousand dollars and many valu- 
able lives." 

So in the spring of 1854, following a sharp rebuke, by 
warwhoop and bullet and arrow, to a detachment of First 
Dragoons who would have " watched and restrained their 
movements," Acting Governor and Superintendent William 
S. Messervy 

issued a proclamation, declaring that war existed between the 
United States and the Jicarilla band of the Apache tribe of 
Indians, and all their aiders and abettors. Shortly afterward 
he also issued an order calling out a portion of the militia 
of the Territory, to assist in protecting the frontiers and prose- 
cuting the war; and this decisive step, together with the 
bravery, energy, and promptness of the troops, assisted by the 
citizens * * * distressed the Indians very much and 
caused them great loss. 166 

Early were the soldiery taught the lesson that in the 
southwestern Apache they had no mean foe. March, 1854, 
saw the defeat of Lieutenant John W. Davidson, a hero of 
San Pasqual and an officer accustomed to the guerilla tactics 
employed by Mexicans and Indians alike. Sent forth by 


order of Major George A. H. Blake, commanding at Can- 
tonment Burgwin, with F and I companies, consisting of 
sixty men, First Dragoons, " to watch and restrain " the 
marauding Jicarillas, along the trail to Santa Fe, Davidson 
came upon them in the Embudo Mountains, twenty miles 
southwest of Taos, " in a rocky defile of their own choos- 
ing." Consequently ensued, continues Colonel Meline, who 
a dozen years later passed through the vicinity (the lieuten- 
ant himself then being general in command at Fort Union), 
" one of the most desperate fights in our Indian record. " 167 

When beset, the dragoons clambered on foot up the sides 
of the defile, trusting by the charge to dislodge the shriek- 
ing reds. But instead they only scattered them among the 
rocks. It was a style of fighting with which the Indian is 
much in love; and the Apaches, avid, gleeful, themselves 
scarcely seen, with a storm of lead and shaft smote the toil- 
ing, heavier soldiers. Now the dragoon horses were en- 
dangered; and led by Lieutenant Davidson ("as cool and 
collected as if under the guns of his fort/' was reported to 
Kit Carson) the soldiers must cut their way back again. 
Just in time they arrived at their saddle stock, and retreat 
was ordered. It proved a hand-to-hand conflict, saber and 
pistol against lance and arrow. Leaving twenty-two men 
dead on the field ("I helped bury them myself," said Kit 
Carson), with thirty-six wounded, including the lieutenant, 
out of the remaining forty, the First Dragoons painfully 
made their way back to Cantonment Burgwin. 

An express was dispatched with the news to Fort Union, 
sixty miles away, where Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. 
George Cooke was in command a character of renown in 
western army annals : " a very peppery man with language/' 
who " talked through his nose so that you could hardly 
understand him, but you had to understand him." 168 

He has spoken before in these pages. Let him speak 


On the 3 ist of March, 1854, while at Fort Union, I received 
news from Major Blake, commanding at Camp Burgwin, of 
a severe action between a detachment of the First Dragoons, 
under Lieutenant Davidson, and the Apaches, in which the 
dragoons had " lost from thirty-five to forty men, and brought 
in seventeen wounded men." The despatch reached me about 
nine o'clock in the morning, and by noon of the same day 
I started with all the troops that could be prudently drawn 
from the fort, and comprising a detachment First Dragoons, 
under Lieutenant Sturgis, and Company H of the Second 
Dragoons, Lieutenant Bell. The entire command had, within 
sixteen hours, returned from marches of 200 miles, part of 
the distance through severe snowstorms. Closely following 
the mounted men came Company D, Second Artillery (serv- 
ing as riflemen), commanded by Brevet Captain Sykes, Third 
Artillery. 169 

" By one of the most severe winter marches I ever under- 
took," Colonel Cooke now pursued the retiring Jicarillas. 

In brief, we crossed the main ridge of the Rocky Mountains. 
Our force, increased by some of the First Dragoons from 
Fort Burgwin and Major Blake, together with about thirty 
New Mexicans and Pueblo Indians under the famous Kit 
Carson (then Indian agent for the Apaches), now amounted 
to 100 sabres and 89 rifles and irregulars. Crossing the Rio 
Grande, we pursued the enemy through deep snows along the 
margin of frightful precipices and ravines, over the roughest 
mountains by sheep-paths, following the devious and scarcely 
perceptible trail only through the wonderful sagacity of our 
Pueblo allies, who seemed never at fault. 

Carson was chief of scouts. The captain of the scout 
company was James H. Quinn, Taos Irishman of much 
renown and president of the Territorial Council. The trail 
was approximately the stage trail of today, which connects 
Taos with the railroad at Servilleta, thirty-five miles east. 
The Rio Grande was swollen with melting snow and must 
be forded. Scouts and dragoons forced in their horses, 
which with great difficulty kept foothold among the rocks 


of the icy torrent, here rushing along between high canon 
walls. The horses must then be sent back for the use of the 
riflemen. Aiding and inciting, Carson is said to have 
crossed and recrossed twenty times. Up the switchback 
trail which ascends the west wall, the benumbed, dripping 
men and horses clambered, and crossed the sagy plateau 
which lies between the river and Servilleta. 

Beyond Servilleta the trail of the Apaches was discovered 
by the scouts. The soldiers followed persistently the 
spirited Captain Sykes declining to mount the horse which 
was his by virtue of his rank, but lending it constantly to 
some disabled member of his foot command. 

On the fourth day from Servilleta the foe, heading for 
the rugged, timbered region of the El Rito country ( favorite 
with the Apache), finding that the Americans were not to 
be discouraged, punctuated the pursuit of 1 50 miles by turn- 
ing at bay 

in a position selected by them, and one of singular strength. 
It was defended by ramparts of solid rock, towering above 
and on either side of us. At its foot ran the Agua Caliente, a 
mountain stream, in most places impassible, and fringed along 
its banks with huge bowlders which had tumbled from the 
overhanging cliffs. The position could only be turned by a 
march of some hours. 

This, then, was the Caliente or Warm Spring country to 
the southwest of Servilleta, in north central New Mexico. 
The scouts under Carson uncovered the enemy ; nothing loth 
were the Pueblos to engage their ancient foe. Colonel 
Cooke ordered the Sykes riflemen to deploy as skirmishers. 
The captain " cheered his men from a limping walk into a 
sort of run," and, crossing the stream, through snow-water 
to their armpits, they dashed to the attack, supporting the 

Lieutenant David Bell led his H Company of the First 


Dragoons on a charge up the mountain side, penetrated the 
loose line of the Apaches, and, after dismounting his men, 
seized upon a ledge of rock which flanked the Indian posi- 
tion. Lieutenant Joseph E. Maxwell was ordered below, 
to intercept the pony herd, that the Apache retreat might be 
cut off. 

Before this scientific assault the Jicarillas' tactics failed; 
they could not meet West Point and frontier combined. 

With the commands of Captain Sykes and Major Blake, 
aided by Lieutenant Bell, the enemy's right was soon after 
turned, and they were completely dispersed with severe loss. 
The enemy numbered about 150 warriors, under Head-Chief 
Chacon. He acknowledged five killed and six wounded. Our 
loss, one (i) killed and one (i) severely wounded. 

It is scarcely necessary to say that all the officers exhibited 
energy and gallantry, and I would thus include Captain Quinn, 
of the Spy Company ; and Mr. Carson showed his well-known 

activity and boldness. 

* * * * * * * * * * 

At sun-down, Brevet Major Carleton, First Dragoons, joined 
me with his command. Very early the next day (Qth) the 
pursuit was renewed. I found, after some miles, that the 
enemy's horse-tracks converged in the snow on a mountain 
side. There had been broken a path two feet deep, which 
led over the great obstacles of a forest of aspens and pines 
which had been prostrated by storm; through bogs where 
mules had to be unpacked; up and down the steep mountain 
sides, from whose summit, above the growth of trees, a world 
of bleak snow spread unlimited to the west; over a stream 
half-bridged with ice and deep snow, where the horses fell 
and every mule had to be unpacked. The very beef-cattle 
were forced through the snow so slowly as to add to these 
delays of hours, and a horse losing his footing floundered 
dangerously. American horses, led in file, first broke the path 
of this retreat. Such was the scene of the enemy's flight by 
moonlight ; the tracks of bare and diminutive feet left a feeble 
memorial of their suffering. 

After three days of similar obstacles, somewhat ameliorated 


by the occasional glimpses of the most stupendous scenery 
* * * we came to a point where the trail, after expanding 
like the sticks of a fan into twenty smaller trails, finally " ran 
out " ; as I was assured by the guides, Carson, and all who 
were experienced, that it was useless to pursue farther, I 
gave the order to turn toward the settlements of the Chama. 

The trail of the Apache is a work of art. No Indians 
are more expert in flight, just as no Indians are more expert 
in pursuit. Decoyed onward through the most difficult 
places to be found, the Colonel Cooke command at night 
would be only a few miles from the start of the morning 
before. The Apaches traveled light an ignis fatuus 
almost but never quite overtaken until, having exhausted 
the dragoons and the foot soldiery, they dissolved in the 
" twenty smaller trails expanding like the sticks of a fan." 
After one or two futile sallies from Abiquiu, the historic 
Mexican village on the Chama, the expedition under its 
doughty colonel must return to the several posts. The 
bodies of the twenty-two dragoons who fell at Embudo 
might still call for vengeance (for slight had been the tab- 
ulated loss in the fight at Agua Caliente) ; but in the words 
of the Department Commander, General Garland, satisfac- 
tion could be taken from the fact that to the Indians had 
been demonstrated something " worth more to us than 
victory " that they " are not safe from pursuit in the most 
inaccessible parts of the Rocky Mountains." 

Back at Taos, and meanwhile performing his duties of 
agent and overseeing his ranching operations at the Rayado, 
Carson was called to the field by Major James H. Carleton, 
against the Jicarillas. 

Fort Massachusetts, far up into the mountain interior of 
present Colorado and the most isolated of the frontier posts, 
was made the basis of operations. In two columns, one 
under that partisan volunteer, Captain Quinn, and the other 
under Major Carleton himself, with Carson for guide, the 


troops crossed eastward from Fort Massachusetts by Mosca 
Pass and Sangre de Cristo Pass into the valleys between the 
main range and the front range of the mountains, where 
they struck an Indian trail. Swinging southward, in a six 
days' march they were back into New Mexico at Fisher's 
Peak of the Raton Range between Bent's Fort and Taos. 
From the dry basin of the bald Fisher's Peak itself the 
Apaches and some few renegade Utes were driven in flight. 
It was on this trail to Fisher's Peak that Kit Carson made 
his special reputation as a scout made it by one incident 
which, somehow, has gained the ascendency over many a 
more important incident. 

On the morning of the day when the Apache camp was 
sighted, Carson, judging from the freshening sign in the 
trail, hazarded the prediction to Major Carleton that, bar- 
ring accident, the Indians would be overtaken " by two 
o'clock this afternoon." The major, with that indulgency 
and that half -incredulity which is apt to stamp the regular 
army officer's attitude toward the less regular and appar- 
ently mysterious scout, promptly offered him a hat to prove 
his words. Evidently the prediction was accurate; for in 
due time came to Kit Carson at Taos, from the " States," 
" a superb hat," bearing within it the inscription : 

At 2 o'Clock 




The early spring and the summer of 1855 witnessed a 
larger campaign against the Jicarillas and the Mohuache 
Utes, their combined bands being under the leadership of 
Blanco chief with the "lofty forehead" and features 
as regular as if " carved for sculptured perfection." By 
order of Governor Merri wether and Colonel Garland both 


volunteers and regulars took the field, the former organized 
at Santa Fe, under Ceran St. Vrain, the trader, in response 
to the proclamation calling for 700 men to serve six months. 
Volunteers and regulars were mobilized at Taos, whence, 
under Colonel Thomas Fauntleroy himself and Ceran St. 
Vrain (who wins the title of lieutenant colonel), and with 
Carson as chief of Taos Pueblo scouts, the expedition set 
forth. The command consisted of two companies of the 
First Dragoons, D company of the Second Artillery (afoot 
as riflemen), six companies of volunteers (Americans and 
Mexicans mingled and one in valor) under St. Vrain, and 
the company of Carson spies. 

Among the regulars was Lieutenant Alexander 
McDowell McCook, just out of West Point and with a 
glorious career before him ; Lieutenant William Magruder ; 
Lieutenant William Craig, scarce a year from the Academy 
and one day to seek the governorship of Colorado. Among 
captains of volunteers were Charles Williams, A Company ; 
Francisco Gonzales, B Company; Captain Charles Deiis 
and Captain Manual Antonio Chaves the last, a worthy 
descendant of a De Vargas conquistador of 1690, his name 
dating back to the Moorish war of 1160, and he himself, 
when a warrior youth but sixteen years of age, pierced by 
seven Navajo arrows. The expedition of 1855 boasted 
no more distinguished member than Manual Chaves 
smaller and slighter even than Kit Carson, with steely gray 
eyes, brown hair, a florid complexion, and a great heart 
for a fight. 

The Mohuache Utes and Jicarilla Apaches, being 
well provisioned, well munitioned, after a brief period of 
quiet were refreshed, and ready to whip the Americans. 
The campaign out of Taos was first carried on in March 
weather below zero, in the San Luis Valley and among 
the engirting mountains of Colorado, with old Fort Massa- 
chusetts as a base. Carson vouches for the temperature 


and the travel being the worst in all his long experience, 
surpassing even the severities of the year before. 

The hostiles were found encamped near the Saguache, 
at the northern end of the San Luis Park. Deceived by 
the smallness of the advance guard, they swarmed from their 
lodges to the defense. Scarcely had the main body of the 
troops hastened to the front, when in a long, whooping line, 
shrieking their taunts, shaking their bows and lances, down 
the valley charged, with feathers streaming, the Indians. 

A young Apache chief rode to and fro, yelling at the top of 
his voice and encouraging his warriors at every hand. This 
chief, with lance in hand, boldly charged upon Captain Chaves, 
who killed him with a shot from his unerring rifle ; before the 
Indian had fallen from his horse he was dragged to the 
ground by Antonio Tapia and scalped with a knife, which 
afterwards came into the possession of Major Weightman, 
and was used by him when he killed Felix X. Aubrey in the 
Exchange Hotel, at Santa Fe. The Indians finally turned and 
fled, having suffered great loss. 170 

Writes to me Major Rafael Chacon, who, as a youth, 
served in the battalion of volunteers : 

At the place called Saguache we had the first encounter with 
the enemy; they were undoubtedly waiting for us to give 
battle; they offered great resistance, and we had a regular 
pitched battle with them. Finally they were put to flight, and 
they left several of their dead on the field. On our side only 
one soldier, of the regular cavalry, was wounded; he had his 
leg broken ; he did not die, but suffered great pain. Later on, 
after much travel and campaigning, when we reached Fort 
Massachusetts we put him in the hospital. 171 

In this battle the fighting surgeon, soldier and author, 
Lieutenant Colonel Dewitt C. Peters, whose life of Carson 
is the standard authority for all other biographies, accom- 
panying the troops out of his station, Fort Massachusetts, 


" met with an adventure which came near costing him his 
life." He tells his own story, and while the epistle scarcely 
would cause Kit Carson and his fellow Indian fighters to 
draw bated breath, we may readily appreciate that it fur- 
nished the worthy surgeon with food for serious thought. 

It was my duty to follow the charging soldiers in order to 
be near at hand to render professional services to the wounded, 
should there be any. I was mounted on a young horse, and 
when the dragoon horses started off, he became frightened and 
unmanageable, and was in a short time left far behind, but not 
until he had fallen and thrown me into a thrifty bed of prickly 
pears, the thorns of which did not in the least save me from 
being hurt. On regaining my feet, I found that my injuries 
were but slight, and that I still retained my bridle rein, there- 
fore I quickly regained my seat in the saddle and started on 
again, remembering the old proverb, which says, " All is fair 
in war!" While riding on, I was joined by a soldier whose 
horse had broken down in the charge. As we now advanced 
together, our routes led us by some large sand hills, behind 
which several Indians had sought refuge, when hotly pur- 

It appears that, unfortunately and to his embarrassment, 
the worthy doctor possessed no Red Cross flag. Out at 
them dashed the warriors, 

and commenced firing their arrows in fine style. My horse 
now became unmanageable, and by some unaccountable impulse 
made directly for the Indians, seeing which, they fled precipi- 
tately. [And this probably saved the doctor's life.] My horse 
seem determined to bring me into uncomfortably close quar- 
ters with a young warrior, who constantly turned and saluted 
me with his arrows. As the situation was getting decidedly 
unpleasant, I raised myself in the saddle, and sent a ball from 
my revolver through the body of the Indian, which rolled him 
to the ground dead; his horse, relieved of his load, galloped 
away furiously. As the danger was thick about them, the 
balance of the Indians soon left to effect their escape. 


With his reputation as a fearless fighter now established 
among both whites and reds and his horse distanced, the 
doctor might pull down, to ride back to the field, and this 
he did. 

The pursuit by the troops was continued until night, 
when camp was pitched at the foot of the Cochetopa Pass, 
westward of the Saguache. Lieutenant Lloyd Beale, of the 
fort's company, was detached, with the baggage and foot 
soldiers, to proceed east, across the valley, over Mosca 
Pass, and to meet the main column in the Wet Mountain 
country. Colonel Fauntleroy and the flying column con- 
tinued on the round-up of the Indians, with the intention of 
making a circle. 

At the Cochetopa Pass occurred another fight in which 
eight Indians were killed and two dragoons wounded. 
Here the Mohuaches and the Jicarillas divided and the two 
tribes took divergent routes the Utes for the north, the 
Apaches for the east. Fauntleroy, Carson, and the rest 
pursued the Utes north, over Poncha (Punche) Pass, into 
the headwaters of the Arkansas. 

At the place now called Salida [narrates Major Chacon], 
by us called the Puerto del Punche [i. e., Pass of the Punche] 
we had another encounter with the Indians ; they did not make 
much resistance, and we took several prisoners. From there 
we followed them down along the Nepesta, now Arkansas, 
River, and we caught up with them at the junction of a small 
stream which flows to the north of the Sierra Mojada. I think 
the place is now called Rosita. From there we turned toward 
Fort Massachusetts by the Puerto del Mosca, for the purpose 
of taking out new rations, and to leave there the wounded 
soldier mentioned before, as well as the sick and prisoners. 

Thus the circle was completed. By this time (the first 
of April) the men and horses of the command were badly 
worn. Many of the latter had died by exhaustion. Carson 
is quoted as saying that on this trip the troops " were 


exposed to the most intense cold weather I ever remember 
experiencing. We were overtaken by several severe snow 
storms which came near completely using us up." The Mex- 
ican volunteers especially suffered, for they were ill provided 
with clothing or blankets. However, the Indians were as 
hardly put, their camps were being destroyed, one after 
another, and it was the consensus of opinion given by St. 
Vrain, Carson, and the army officers that the campaign 
should not slacken. 

After a brief rest at the post, where the horses were 
enabled to pick up on the abundant forage now uncovered 
by the melting snow ; and after having given a short space 
of confidence to the Indians that they might unite their 
scattered squads and families, the command was divided. 

April 20 Colonel St. Vrain with two companies, A and 
B, of volunteers, one company of dragoons, and a corps 
of spies under Carson was detached to scour the country 
to the east of the main Sangre de Cristo range, whither 
the Jicarillas had headed. Colonel Fauntleroy led the other 
troops upon the Utes again. 

The St. Vrain command, with which were Carson and 
his Pueblos, crossed the Sangre de Cristo range by the 
northern pass called Veta Pass. 

From there [writes Major Chacon] we turned south to the 
Rio del Oro in the direction of Apishapa. At the point now 
called Rio de los Trujillos we caught up with a band of 
Apaches who fled from us. And from there Captain Carson 
was ordered to come out to the plains with his scouts, going 
through the place now called Aguilar. The balance of our 
force kept along the draw now called Reilly Canon, where we 
lost our way and came out towards Chicosa. The plains were 
full of deer; Captain Carson had given leave to his scouts to 
kill several of them, and as they were scattered about we took 
them (the Pueblos) for Apaches, and were about to charge on 
them, when they took refuge on the Chicosa hill; from there 
they displayed their signals, which were strips of white cloth 


two yards long, tied about their temples, and with the ends 
streaming down. This saved them from being attacked by us. 
From that point we again caught up with the Indians at what 
is now Long's Canon. There we took several women and 
children prisoners, and we followed the trail up to Wootton's 
Ranch, where we again caught up with the warriors and again 
made some of their women and children captives. From that 
point the main force under Colonel St. Vrain went to Fort 
Union with the captives. My company pursued the Indians 
in the direction of Red River (the Canadian), to the loca- 
tion of Fort Bascom. In the month of July the company was 
disbanded, the Indians having sued for peace. 

While the St. Vrain command was making this long 
march over the mountains and down upon the plains of 
southeastern Colorado beyond Trinidad city, thence to the 
Raton Mountains, and thence, as Company B, on down 
through northeastern New Mexico, Colonel Fauntleroy had 
pressed north from Fort Massachusetts, to the Punche 
Pass again. The artillery company, afoot, marched in 
snow and mud ankle deep, from Mosca Pass to the Punche, 
eighty-five miles in thirty-six hours. On the evening of 
April 28 the village of the Utes was discovered, twenty 
miles beyond the pass; a night attack was made, surpris- 
ing the village, interrupting a war dance and strewing the 
field with over forty Indian bodies. 

The dismayed Utes fled, separating into two bands, one of 
which took to the Wet Mountains and the east side of the 
Sangre de Cristo range, the other to the San Luis Valley 
west of the Rio Grande River. 

Dividing his command again, to scour the country thor- 
oughly, Colonel Fauntleroy followed the southeastward 
trail. After another skirmish at the foot of the Sierra 
Blanca mountain, early in May he re-entered Fort Massa- 
chusetts, to learn by express that the St. Vrain command, 
by fights of April 25 and 26 " at the crossing of the Huer- 
fano," had smitten the Apache also, had killed six out of 


sixty, captured seven, rescued two Mexican prisoners, taken 
thirty-one horses, and destroyed all the camp equipage. 

But the war was not finished. Detached by Colonel 
Fauntleroy, C company of the volunteers had set out on the 
trail down the San Luis Valley, past present Alamosa and 
along the west side of the Rio Grande. Captain Smith H. 
Simpson, who was sergeant quartermaster, serving with 
C company, writes : 

After the fight at the Arkansas (Nepesta) we divided on 
the east and west side of the mountains. My company was 
ordered towards what is now Alamosa (Colorado) and Tierra 
Amarillo (New Mexico). We drove the Indians on to El Rito, 
where they attacked us. We drove them across the Rio Grande, 
and they took to the mountains known as the Jicarillas, the 
highest mountains north and east of Santa Fe. From there 
we drove them out again, and at last, after five months' chasing 
and fighting, they were forced, July, 1855, mto Santa Fe, 
where they made a peace that they have kept ever since. 

The Utes and Jicarillas had been seven times caught, and 
upon every occasion had been greatly worsted. " They 
had lost at least five hundred horses, all their camp equipage, 
ammunition, provisions, and most of their arms." There- 
fore, with Indian wisdom, they judged that it was time to 
quit and from hostiles change to friendlies. By June the 
campaign was closed, and the volunteers were honorably 
discharged. In the Taos plaza the valiant Pueblo scouts 
held a grand war dance of triumph. Superintendent and 
Governor Merri wether reported, September, 1855 : 

Early in August, a delegation on the part of these two bands 
presented themselves to me and sued for peace * * * and I 
appointed to meet both bands on the Chama River above 
Abiquiu, on the loth instant; this meeting was held at the 
time and place designated, and resulted in treaties of peace 
with both bands * * * and I can now have the pleasure of 
informing you that peace has once more been restored to 
this territory. 


Carson was opposed to this peace upon terms so easy for 
the Indians. It was the psychological moment for impress- 
ing the red wards with the fact that the Government held 
the whip hand ; and that he who fights and runs away is not 
to be welcomed back as the prodigal son. Kit Carson by 
no means stood alone in his attitude of criticism of the 
government methods. The New Mexican native people 
sided with him, for the agent, Don Diego Archuleta, sta- 
tioned at Abiquiu over the Jicarillas, writes direct to Wash- 
ington : 

The expeditions made by the commanding officers of this 
department against our neighboring savages during the last 
four years must, I venture to say, have cost the government 
at least one million of dollars, and what has been the gain? 
The Indians are at peace, no one doubts that; but how long 
will they remain so ? Indians have no national faith at least 
the Apaches and Utahs have not and the propriety may be 
questioned to acknowledge in them the power to make treaties. 
The acknowledgement of such a power necessarily implies a 
sovereignty which these Indians do not possess, and which, if 
they did possess it, they would sell to the first purchaser offer- 
ing himself, for a piece of tobacco, a pipe, a piece of meat, or 
an old shirt. A treaty is not kept sacred by them, nor ever will. 
Whenever, in the opinion of our Indian neighbors, it appears 
that the government is tardy in making them the usual presents, 
or whenever they have some object in view which they cannot 
obtain peaceably, they will, disregarding their treaties, make 
war upon us by stealing our property, murdering and violating 
our families, knowing that the consequence will be a " treaty," 
where they are to receive what they desire. The government, 
after an unsuccessful pursuit in a country almost inaccessible 
to our troops, will readily listen to their applications for peace. 
The Indians receive the gratifications, and sign the " treaty," 
with the felonious intent to break it as soon as convenient. 

Of the succeeding campaigns in which Agent Carson took 
part, we have but little record, and that a record with only 
slight variation of incident. The Jicarillas and the Utes, 




their favor bought by government presents, remained on 
the whole harmless even if, in instances, most dangerous. 
Carson himself must have been busy; visiting Abiquiu, 
Cone j os of the San Luis Valley, Fort Union, Santa Fe, 
Rayado; dividing his time between his charges and his 
business details; upon his excursions among the settle- 
ments, extending his rides even down to Albuquerque, 
there, in the summer of 1860, to be seen by the versatile 
Samuel Cozzens, as " a little weazen-faced, light-haired, 
active frontiersman " who did n't " fear no Injun livin'." 

In 1860 Carson took a hunting trip with a party into 
the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Here, 
while descending a steep gravelly slope and leading his 
horse, the animal slipped, and before he could throw the 
reata from him, he was entangled, drawn under the strug- 
gling brute, and dragged some distance. It was one of his 
narrow escapes from death ; and it left him with an internal 
injury which grew steadily worse. From that maltreatment 
developed the enlargement of the artery which eight years 
later brought the end. 

Carson was being retained as Indian agent ; and with this 
and with his ranching prospects and the prospects which 
opened with the country, he seemed to be attaining pros- 
perity. Then, suddenly, all the current of his life, and the 
current of the life about him, was interrupted by the shot 
fired at Fort Sumter. 


BY ALL accounts Kit Carson's mind wavered not one 
instant from the duty to which he was bound by 
every sentiment save that of remote birth. If in his bosom 
had lingered any rancor over the non-ratification of his lieu- 
tenancy, a dozen years before a failure of the Govern- 
ment to recognize his services, but a failure atoned for later 
by its support of him as Indian agent the wound had 
healed. Now, for another decade, he had been associating 
with the blue uniforms to which Fremont first had intro- 
duced him ; he had marched with the Flag in California, and 
later with the guidon in New Mexico; he had been sworn 
ambassador to the red children, and had preached to them 
the doctrine of citizenship and obedience. He was of that 
single-mindedness which fosters loyalty through thick and 
thin which cannot see two paths from right to right. 
And in his stand for the Union he was not alone. 

When the news of Abraham Lincoln's election was 
announced in Taos, Carson, Captain Simpson, and other 
stanch retainers of the Republic, both Americans and Mex- 
icans, hoisted the Stars and Stripes in the plaza and kept 
them there. 172 At the news of war Carson resigned his 
position as agent, and was succeeded, in July, by William 
F. M. Amy- the agency being removed, because of the 
Taos whiskey stills, forty miles east, to " Maxwell's Rancho 
on the Cimmeron." Here the Carson influence was still felt, 
for Agent Arny reported, September 24, of the same year, 
that " the Mohuache band of Utah Indians, for whom I 
am agent, are friendly disposed towards the United States, 



and since my arrival here have tendered their services for 
the protection of the citizens of this Territory." 173 

Henry Connelly, Kentuckian, Santa Fe trader, of long 
residence, was now governor, and firm in his allegiance. In 
the place of Colonel W. H. Loring, the seceding military 
commander, was appointed the uncompromising Colonel 
Edward R. S. Canby of the Nineteenth Infantry a soldier 
who could be depended upon to the very end. Major Gen- 
eral John C. Fremont, stationed at St. Louis, was in com- 
mand of the Department of the West. Rumors were flying 
thick and fast regarding the contemplated withdrawal of 
this new West. But New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, 
California, remained loyal. Arizona, however, unrecon- 
ciled to the apparent neglect of Washington in ignoring its 
" Arizuma " delegate from the Gadsden purchase, south 
of 33 40', invited the Confederacy, and in August elected 
a delegate to the halls of the Southern Congress. 

Lieutenant Colonel John R. Baylor, leading his Second 
Texas Mounted Rifles, C. S. A., crossed into the Mesilla Val- 
ley, and proclaimed for this Arizona, to the line of 34, a 
Confederate military government and for himself the office 
of governor, making Mesilla his capital. Fort Fillmore 
at Mesilla was surrendered by Major Isaac Lynde, with 
scarcely a shot fired for its honor. The only other Arizona 
posts, Fort Breckinridge on the San Pedro, and Fort 
Buchanan on the border southeast of Tucson, were evac- 
uated by their garrisons, who hastily retired; and as they 
marched out the Apaches swarmed in, their only flag the 
flag of plunder. What mattered to them the rights or the 
wrongs of the white man's providential strife? 

The pioneer overland stage line the Butterfield South- 
ern Express, which through almost 3,000 miles of desert, 
carried the mails twice a week in spite of Indian, sun, dust, 
and cloudburst, between Arkansas and the mouth of the 
Gila after three years of its six years contract at $600,000 


a year was obliged to transfer its business to the Platte 
trail. Meanwhile 

the Apache marauders swept down from their mountain 
strongholds, and carried death and destruction throughout 
Southern Arizona; ranches and stock- ranges were abandoned, 
and the few whites left in the country took refuge within the 
walls of Tucson. The savages indulged in a saturnalia of 
slaughter, and the last glimmer of civilization seemed about to 
be quenched in blood. The horribly mutilated bodies of men, 
women, and children marked nearly every mile of the road to 
the Rio Grande. This frightful condition of things existed 
for nearly a year after the withdrawal of the troops. 174 

Before the news of the battle of Bull Run had been received, 
in August, Colonel Canby was making desperate efforts to 
rally his local forces, and, under Ceran St. Vrain, its colonel, 
and Christopher Carson, its lieutenant colonel, the First New 
Mexican Volunteer Infantry was being rapidly recruited 
from the country roundabout Taos. The Second, Third, 
Fourth, and Fifth Volunteers had been called for, or else 
were in near prospect; and leaders such as the Pinos, the 
Chaves family, the Valdez family, and other Mexicans of 
noble blood, had come forward in their new patriotism. 175 

In August, from Fort Union, Colonel St. Vrain and Lieu- 
tenant Colonel Carson signed a protest, to be forwarded to 
western headquarters, against any withdrawal of the regu- 
lar troops from the Territory, submitting that in the post 
were stores to the amount of $271,147.55 (eastern cost), 
and that the volunteers, unsupported by fire-tried troops, 
were not efficient for a modern battle. Colonel Canby 
endorsed this, calling the attention of Major General Fre- 
mont, who should know the New Mexicans well, to the 
fact that the volunteers enlisted were not rancheros or 
citizens of the better class, but were untrained, unambitious, 
apathetic paisanos, etc., of doubtful capabilities. Neverthe- 
less, more than 6,000 New Mexicans, the majority natives, 
were enrolled under the banner which forbade peonage. 


So, aided by St. Vrain and Carson, Colonel Canby strug- 
gled to obtain from the higher authorities the other sinews 
of war. 

I have heretofore called the general-in-chief's attention to 
the destitute condition of this department in military resources 
and supplies of every kind. 

No information has yet been received with regard to the 
annual supply of ordnance stores required for the troops in 

this department. 

The military operations in this department have for several 
months past been greatly embarrassed, and are now almost 
entirely paralyzed, by the want of funds in the pay depart- 
ment. Many of the regular troops have not been paid for 
more than twelve months, and the volunteers not at all. 176 

But, for the other side of the shield, 

Men, money and supplies were forthcoming from the Terri- 
tory, however. The Legislature authorized the governor to 
call into service the entire Territorial force, volunteers flocked 
to the standard, and Governor Connelly congratulated the 
people on their patriotism. 177 

In September Ceran St. Vrain resigned his colonelcy on 
account of ill health, and was succeeded by Kit Carson. 
;He confined himself to his strong personal influence, and 
to supplying the commissary with flour from his mill. 

In October the First Regiment was assembled at Albu- 
querque, garrisoned by six companies from the Fifth and 
Seventh United States Infantry, and by the First, Second 
and Third New Mexican Volunteers. Colonel B. S. Rob- 
erts, the incorruptible, was now in command of the South- 
ern Military District of New Mexico, with headquarters 
at Fort Craig where Colonel Canby was, as fast as prac- 
ticable, concentrating his Union forces. The border forts 


had fallen; and General Henry Hopkins Sibley's Confed- 
erate brigade for the conquest of New Mexico to still 
another flag was marshalling at El Paso, to move on through 
the gateway of the Rio Grande, for Santa Fe and Colorado. 
The First Regiment of Volunteers stayed at Albuquerque 
until the end of January. There was drilling, of course, 
and other martial routine to whip the recruits into shape. 
But Colonel Carson made the most of his opportunity to 
cement further his domestic bonds. The colonel's uniform 
sat lightly upon his shoulders. His wife and children came 
down from Taos. 

He was very loving toward his family [says Major Chacon, 
captain under him]. I remember that he used to lie down 
on an Indian blanket, in front of his quarters, with his pockets 
full of candy and lumps of sugar. His children would then 
jump on top of him, and take the sugar and candy from 
his pockets and eat it. This made Colonel Carson very happy, 
and he derived great pleasure from these little episodes. His 
wife, Dona Josepha Jaramillo, was called by him by the pet 
name of " Chipita," and he was most kind to her. 

The trail from Santa Fe down the Rio Grande to Socorro 
and on to El Paso, was the Chihuahua Trail for traders. 
Socorro marked the jumping-off place, below which was a 
southern New Mexico, uninhabited and, because of the 
Indians, deemed uninhabitable. But with forts Craig, 
Thorn, and Fillmore to form a line with Fort Bliss at El 
Paso of Texas, the Yankee government had boldly intruded 
upon this traditional solitude, and had thrust it through 
with the finger of the white civilization. 

Fort Craig was at the head of the dreaded Jornada del 
Muerto, where the trail left the Rio Grande and for eighty 
miles traversed waterless lava and sand. In February a 
force of 3,810 men had been assembled there under Colonel 
Canby: Companies B, D, F, I, and K of the Fifth Regular 
Infantry; Companies C, F, and H of the Seventh Regu- 


lar Infantry ; Companies A, F, and H of the Tenth Regular 
Infantry; Companies D and G of the First Regular Cav- 
alry; Company G of the Second Regular Cavalry; Com- 
panies C, D, G, I, and K of the Third Regular Cavalry; 
Company B, Captain Dodd, of the Second Colorado Volun- 
teers (sent posthaste by the splendid Governor Gilpin) ; 
eight companies of Colonel Christopher Carson's First 
New Mexican Volunteer Infantry; seven companies of 
the Second New Mexican Volunteer Infantry; seven 
companies of the Third New Mexican Volunteer Infan- 
try; one company of the Fourth and two companies 
of the Fifth; Captain James Graydon's company of New 
Mexican Spies; and 1,000 unorganized militia. Nor must 
we omit the battery of two twenty- four-pound howitzers 
from the Tenth Infantry, commanded by Lieutenant Robert 
H. Hall, and the provisional light battery, made up of 
Companies G of the Second and I of the Third Cavalry, 
commanded by Captain Alexander McRae of the Third, 
his subalterns lieutenants Lyman Mishler, First Infantry, 
and Joseph McC. Bell. Governor Connelly himself, and 
Superintendent of Indians J. L. Collins, were present also. 

By orders of February 14 Colonel Carson was assigned, 
for field operations, to the command of the Third Column, 
composed of his First Regiment two battalions of four 
companies each, the one battalion under Lieutenant Colo- 
nel J. Francisco Chaves, the other under Major Arthur 
Morrison, making altogether 512 men. 

Colonel Canby was by no means an isolated example of 
alleged neglect from a busy government, for through delays 
and inattention which he declared to be disheartening (and 
which were fatal to his project) until the end of January 
General Sibley was unable to resume his forward movement. 

From Fort Bliss to Fort Craig is 160 miles sixty miles 
of it a rolling country providing wood and water, and eighty 
miles of it the bare Jornada del Muerto. But it was do or 


die with the Confederates; for the country, instead of wel- 
coming them, seemed to be combining against them, and 
now, from the west, was pressing eastward the California 
Column of 2,350 men under Colonel James H. Carleton. 
Thus not only had the disaffection hoped for in California 
proved a disappointment, but from that state the flag carried 
there by desert march of Kearny's dragoons was coming 
back to reassert itself along the same historic Gila trail. 
The Confederate Arizona of " Governor " Baylor was short- 
lived. The " Second Texas Mounted Rifles, C. S. A.," and 
the reinforcements from Sibley were quickly retired; and 
post after post was re-occupied by the Union. 

Reinforced by Baylor, the Sibley column of some 2,600, 
whose apparent lack in numbers was more than balanced 
by the equipment of experience, marched up along the Rio 
Grande. All were American fighters, wonted to Indian 
warfare; whereas on the other side fully half the Canby 
troops were not only of peasant class but had not been 
bred by custom to meet fighting. Yet, when well led, they 
could endure much and dare much, as was proved in the 
severe mountain campaign of 1855. Colonel Canby knew, 
however, of the timid element among his forces and so he 
designed that the volunteers and militia should not be ma- 
neuvered under fire, a scheme which was thwarted by his 
opponent officers who knew this element as well as he did. 

With column depleted by illnesses, and with mules so 
thirsty and famished that on the 2oth some 200 of them 
deflected to the river and to the fort, on the i8th of Feb- 
ruary the Confederate advance appeared below Fort Craig. 

The course of the Rio Grande here is between ridges of 
drifting sand, and of lava outcrops usually parallel to the 
stream, thereby affording excellent cover for troops. Below 
and across from the post was a basaltic mesa from forty to 
eighty feet high, almost inaccessible by horse or artillery, 
but running down to the river in a point which, at 1,000 


yards, commanded the interior of the post. Two and a half 
miles above it, began the higher Mesa del Contadero, 300 
feet high, three miles long and two wide. At either extrem- 
ity of it the valley of the river was accessible, with a ford 
at the upper end. 

Any hope on the part of Colonel Canby that the enemy 
would attempt to reduce the post, and that he would be 
enabled to fight his volunteers from behind the walls, was 
dissipated; for it was evident that General Sibley' s plan 
was to turn the position by marching around it. On the 
2Oth, at the Panadero Ford below the fort he unexpectedly 
crossed from the west bank to the east bank, and cleverly 
sidestepping the defenses, although hampered by the deflec- 
tion of his thirsty mules, moved northward, up the rougher 
east side, between the mesa, unscalable, and the river, now 
turgid and rising. His column, keeping three and four 
miles distant, could be seen from the fort. 

Thus the defenders were drawn from their base, and 
compelled to fight upon ground of the enemy's choosing. 

About five miles above the fort, at Valverde, a ruinous, 
deserted settlement, the river was to be crossed again, from 
east to west. Seeing that the Sibley forces were evidently 
making for this point, Colonel Canby dispatched to the 
east side of the river Graydon's spies, and 500 mounted 
militia and volunteers under colonels Pino and Stapleton, 
to threaten the enemy's flanks and impede him. But the 
volunteers, as Canby remarks in disgust, were thrown into 
confusion by a " few harmless shells," and this movement 
failed. However, by the demonstration the Confederates 
were held all that night in position. At eight o'clock on the 
morning of the next day, the 2ist, they advanced again. 

As the battle was inevitable, and as Sibley was outmaneu- 
vering him, Colonel Canby had dispatched Lieutenant Col- 
onel Roberts along the west bank to the ford with regular 
cavalry and mounted volunteers to occupy and hold the 


crossing. He was followed at five in the morning by the 
McRae and Hall batteries, supported by Brotherton's com- 
pany of the Fifth Infantry, Ingraham's of the Seventh, 
and two companies of volunteers; and these by Selden's 
battalion, eight companies of regulars, the company of 
Colorado Volunteers, and Carson's First Regiment. 178 

So here, in the Southwest, with little attention from the 
great armies maneuvering in the East, where the fate of a 
national principle was to be decided, was waged the first of 
the two or three battles that settled not so large a question 
as the national one, but one that nevertheless bore definitely 
upon the affairs of half a continent. Had the Confederate 
project of investing the Rocky Mountain country met with 
only a measure of success, it would have started in the flesh 
of the Republic a malignant sore of guerilla warfare more 
virulent than ever yet has been prescribed for. White and 
red against white and red thus the fever would have 
swept desert,, pass, plain, and vale. 

Fairly planned, but poorly executed, were the Federal 
operations in the battle of Valverde, New Mexico, February 
21, 1862. Colonel Canby gained less credit from the contest 
than his subalterns ; yet there was truth in his complaint : 

The battle was fought almost entirely by the regular troops 
(trebled in number by the Confederates), with no assistance 
from the militia and but little from the volunteers, who would 
not obey orders or obeyed them too late to be of any service. 
The immediate cause of the disaster was the refusal of one of 
the volunteer regiments to cross the river and support the left 
wing of the army. 

The contemporary operations of the right wing were emi- 
nently successful. 

Although the ground had been surveyed a month before, 
says Colonel Roberts, and the importance of the Valverde 
ford had been recognized, upon arrival there he now found 


himself too late; the passage had been pre-empted by the 
invading column, which was being posted to cover the cross- 
ing. However, Colonel Roberts was a fighter; and so act- 
ing promptly he succeeded in seizing, by desperate work of 
the McRae battery and Major Duncan's cavalry, the little 
bosque or copse that commanded the ford the key to the 

When the Carson regiment arrived at nine o'clock, the 
booming of the cannon and the rattle of the small arms were 
incessant. None recognized better than Carson how uncer- 
tain a quality the New Mexican green volunteers were ; and 
he had wisely asked of Colonel Canby that the First Regi- 
ment be held back as long as practicable probably with 
a view to arousing its spirit. Now, upon reporting to Colo- 
nel Roberts, he was ordered to take position on the left, 
in a bosque there, and to watch the Confederate right. 
This he did, and " moved along up the west side of the 
Rio Grande as the enemy extended his right in the same 

Thus, previous to the arrival of Colonel Canby himself 
with fresh troops to relieve the Roberts companies, the 
Carson men " had remained on the west side of the river 
and had taken no part in the battle." 

About I o'clock in the afternoon I received from Colonel 
Canby the order to cross the river, which I immediately did, 
after which I was ordered to form my command on the right 
of our line and to advance as skirmishers toward the hills. 
After advancing some 400 yards we discovered a large body 
(some 400 or 500) of the enemy charging diagonally across 
our front, evidently with the intention of capturing the 24- 
pounder gun, which, stationed on our right, was advancing and 
doing much harm to the enemy. As the head of the enemy's 
column came within some 80 yards of my right a volley from 
the whole column was poured into them, and the firing being 
kept up caused them to break in every direction. Almost at 
the same time a shell from the 24-pounder was thrown among 


them with fatal effect. They did not attempt to reform, and 
the column supported by the gun on the right, was moving 
forward to sweep the wood near the hills, when I received 
the order to retreat and recross the river. This movement was 
executed in good order. The column, after crossing the river, 
returned to its station near Fort Craig, where it arrived about 
7 o'clock in the evening. 179 

This is Carson's report of his part at Valverde, where 
West Pointer was arrayed against West Pointer, and where 
for the first and only time he witnessed American battle 
tactics opposed to American battle tactics, American arms 
opposed to American arms. To him, the battle was going 
well for the Union forces, and his own advance had been 
successful; but to the more practiced eye the aspect was 

When at 2:45 (according to Colonel Roberts) Canby 
took command on the field, having left a rear guard at the 
fort and sent forward every other available man, he found 
that the Confederate movement had been entirely uncovered, 
that the ford was the focus, and that Colonel Roberts' occu- 
pation of the bosque was precarious. Sibley, practically 
abandoning his supply train, was rushing up more men; 
his position, in a swale between two sand ridges, was very 
strong, and an assault upon him all along the line would 
have been risky. 

Colonel Canby determined, as a last measure, to force 
the Confederate left by advancing the Federal right and 
center with his own left as a pivot a change of front, 
at a right angle, which would rake the swale and reverse 
the advantage. 

For this movement, the McRae battery at the river, 
strongly supported, formed the Federal left ; Selden's Regu- 
lars and Carson's Volunteers formed the center; Hall's 
battery, with its support, and Major Duncan's dismounted 
regular cavalry formed the right. The Pino Second Regi- 


ment of Volunteers, a squadron of the First Cavalry, and 
Colonel Valdez' Volunteers formed the reserve. 

" Accordingly, Carson's regiment, which at his own 
request had not hitherto been brought into action, was 
ordered to cross the river." It was just in time to join in 
repulsing a charge on Hall's battery, and " by a well-directed 
fire added to the discomfiture of the enemy." 

The charge, which was in the nature of a feint, drew the 
Carson regiment into pursuit. So they followed ( as Carson 
reports), flushed with seeming victory. But behind, at the 
ford, two masked batteries, concealed in an arroyo, or 
portion of the old river bed, from about one hundred yards 
had opened upon the McRae battery. 

The formation of this old river-bed gave ample protection 
to their guns and gunners, while their enfilading fire on our 
entirely exposed command was most destructive to men and 
horses. This terrific fire of canister swept through us for 
some time (the battery supports meantime lying protected in 
our rear, as their presence could be of no assistance), when a 
body of the enemy, numbering some twelve or fifteen hundred 
men, rose from behind the old river-bank and charged us. 
To describe this charge would be but to tell of many similar 
ones during the war, in which wild ardor and determination 
were the moving features. 180 

Colonel Canby, watching the field, noted these dismounted 
Texans (1,000, he states) stealing forward under cover of 
the sand hills. He hastened, himself, to warn the battery 
support, but before he could deliver the word the charge 
had developed ; "on they came, without order, each man 
for himself, and ' the devil for the vanquished,' in true 
' Ranger ' style, down to almost the muzzles of our guns." 
At the sight and the yells, the Mortimore and Hubbell com- 
panies of the Third New Mexican Volunteers broke and 
fled, tearing their way through the companion support of 
Captain P. W. L. Plympton's Regulars and the Colorado 


company, " leaving their gallant Colonel * * * and 
a few of his officers to do independent service in the 
battery." 181 

Letting the New Mexicans go, the regulars and the Col- 
oradans rallied, pressed forward, and aiding the cannoneers 
by fierce volleys drove back the Texan advance. But, as 
says the gallant Bell, serving with these cavalrymen turned 
artillerists : 

Then again the Texan batteries opened with the same un- 
savory diet of canister, and we replied in kind, preparing for 
the next onslaught that was sure to come. And it did come, 
with larger numbers and more violence than before. 

The wild Texan wave surged forward, deploying in a 
long fan-shaped line, and converging while it poured a 
furious fire from rifles, revolvers, and shotguns loaded with 

And again, with double-shotted guns, they were driven back, 
but leaving us little able to resist successfully such another 
effort. In this second charge Captain McRae (this officer 
refused to surrender, but, seated upon a gun, coolly emptied 
his pistols, each shot counting one Texan less, until covered 
with wounds, he expired at his post) and Lieutenant Mishler 
were killed, Lieutenant Bell thrice wounded, and certainly 
one-half the men and two-thirds of the horses either killed or 
hors de combat. The charging party of the enemy regained 
their position behind the old river-bed, we were again treated 
to another and more continuous fire from their batteries, which 
we feared was but the introduction to another charge from 
their reinforced numbers. We hadn't long to wait for the 
coup de main. Down they came upon us, rushing through 
the fire poured into them, with maddened determination, until 
the whole force was inside the battery, where, hand-to-hand, 
men were slaughtered. Simultaneously with this third charge, a 
column of the enemy's cavalry moved upon our left flank, 
which commanded the attention of our infantry supports, leav- 
ing our thinned but enthusiastic battery-men to resist as well 
as possible the Texan force among us. 182 


All was confusion. The available Federal cavalry, a 
small squadron under Lieutenant Lord of the volunteers, 
were summoned to the scene to occupy, if possible, the 
battery until the Fifth Infantry, from another part of the 
field, could arrive. But amid the struggling mass they 
were unable to distinguish friend from foe, and had to be 
sent to the rear again. But the Captain Wingate battalion 
of regulars, arriving at double-quick, by rapid volleys 
threw the Texans into momentary disorder. Seizing upon 
this, and still trusting to turn the scale, Colonel Canby 
(three horses having been shot under him), dispatched his 
messages recalling the Carson and other troops from the 
vain pursuit and rallying the reserves. 

The right wing, with which Carson's command had 
coalesced, was far and scattered; the Union troops had 
been fording and re- fording, where the water was swift and 
cold, and were worn out; the reserves were panic-stricken, 
inextricably mixed with fugitives, and at the last 

Pino's regiment, of which only one company (Sena's) and 
part of another could be induced to cross the river, was in the 
wildest confusion, and no efforts of their own officers, or of 
my own staff, could restore any kind of order. More than 100 
men from this regiment deserted from the field. 183 

The day was lost to the Union forces; the capture of 
the McRae battery settled the possession of the ford. From 
the Confederate supply train more men, swelling the rein- 
forcements to 500 (according to Canby) were hastening 
up ; the hour was five o'clock, dusk was near, and " with a 
large number of our men killed and wounded, horses dead 
and disabled, our supports badly thinned, and the enemy 
massing their forces upon us, General Canby gave the 
orders to fall back. It was not possible to carry the whole 
of the battery with us, and but two guns and three cais- 
sons were taken across the river, under the fire that was 


poured into us by the Texan troops lining the east bank of 
the stream." 184 

The Canby army retired to Fort Craig; crippled by the 
victory dearly won, the Sibley army pressed wearily on, to 
leave their wounded at Socorro, twenty-seven miles above, 
and thence to hasten for Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Fort 
Union, which none reached save as prisoners. 

The Confederate loss was reported by Sibley as forty 
killed and 100 wounded and this is supplemented by the 
report of his field officers, who place the loss at thirty-six 
killed and 150 wounded. Union casualties, sixty-eight 
killed, 1 60 wounded, thirty-five missing; total 263. The 
Carson First Regiment's quota was one man killed, one 
wounded, and eleven missing. 

Colonels Miguel E. Pino and Christopher Carson, lieuten- 
ant colonels J. Francisco Chaves and Manual Chaves, and 
others of the volunteer officers, the majority of whom seem 
to have led bravely, were mentioned in dispatches. 


WITH the subsequent war between whites and whites 
in New Mexico we have naught directly to do. 
History records how the battered . Sibley column marched 
on to Albuquerque, occupied Santa Fe, and pushed for the 
$300,000 cache of Fort Union; how hurrying from the 
north, with one march of sixty-four miles in twenty-four 
hours, the First Regiment, Colorado Volunteer Infantry, 
under Colonel Slough and the fighting parson, Chivington, 
arrived in time to place the post, already mined by the weak 
garrison, out of immediate danger; how from the fort 
regulars and volunteers sallied to the south, and how from 
Fort Craig the chagrined Canby sallied to the north, and 
the Texans were between. It records how on March 26 at 
historic Apache Canon, on the overland trail from Fort 
Union to Santa Fe, the Texans were encountered by the 
Colorado " Pike Peakers " ; how the Texans were driven 
from the field ; how on the 28th another battle, and a larger 
one, was fought by the two main armies at Pigeon's Ranch ; 
and how the doughty Chivington, under guidance of Lieu- 
tenant Colonel Manual Chaves, flanked the Texans and com- 
pelled them to retreat to Santa Fe; how from Santa Fe 
the invaders fell back to Albuquerque; and how, dogged 
by the allied forces under Canby from the south and Chiv- 
ington and Paul from the north, the shattered Texans, 
1,200 men and thirteen wagons out of the 3,800 men and 
327 wagons, perforce retraced their way down the Rio 
Grande, fighting for the lead and to prevent the Federals 



from crossing, until finally, above Fort Craig, they found 
a by-trail which conducted them to safety. 

In naught of the foregoing did Colonel Christopher 
Carson take part. After Valverde the battles for free or 
slave supremacy in the Southwest were fought by the other 
commands, and the campaign up along the Rio Grande was 
conducted without his active help. For when Canby was 
ready to leave Craig, for vengeance upon the Sibley column, 
he made secure his base with the following order : 

FORT CRAIG, N. MEX., March 31, 1862. 

Colonel : You are charged with the duty of holding this post. 
Your command will consist of seven companies of your own 
regiment, two of the Second, and one of the Fourth Regiment 
New Mexican Volunteers. The convalescents, as they become 
effective, will add to your strength, and I am instructed by the 
colonel commanding to say that the objects in view of the plan 
of operations require that it should be held to the last extrem- 
ity. The manner of doing this is left to your judgment and 
discretion, in both of which he has the utmost confidence. 
The force of the enemy in Mesilla will not allow him to make 
a regular attack upon the post, but it may be attempted by 
surprise. To guard against this he desires that you will exer- 
cise yourself and exact from all of your command the most 
unremitting vigilance. 

The sick and wounded left in your care will of course 
receive every attention, and the colonel commanding desires 
me to say that any expenditures that will add to their comfort 
or conduce to their recovery will be fully authorized. 
Very respectfully, sir, yr obed serv't, 

Captain Twelfth Infantry, Actg. Asst. Adj't. Gen. 

On this same date Colonel Canby was appointed, at 
Washington, brigadier general of volunteers; on the next 
day he rode with his column for the north. In this March, 
also, of 1862, before the National House was introduced 


that bill creating the Arizona of today, which passed the 
Senate a year later. 

After the departure of General Canby no news of impor- 
tance emanated from Fort Craig. That Kit Carson was 
there seems to have inspired confidence throughout the 

As colonel of infantry Carson was now credited to 
monthly pay of $95, to six rations a day of monthly cash 
value of $54, to two servants of the monthly commutation 
value of $45, and to horse forage of monthly value of $4 
in war and $2 in peace. His income therefore totalled, if 
he could so manage it, $198. As he did not have his family 
with him to require the servants and to consume the rations, 
he probably sent home much of both allowance and pay. 
He was colonel, in the field most of the time, for four years. 

On May 31, the First, Second, Fourth, and Fifth New 
Mexican Volunteer Regiments were consolidated to form the 
First New Mexican Volunteer Cavalry, with Carson com- 
manding. His income as mounted officer was now raised 
by $18 his pay being $110, his servant hire $47, and his 
horse forage, in war, $5. General Canby was relieved by 
orders of August 5, 1862, and called to report at Wash- 
ington; thence to enter upon a distinguished army career 
amidst the large operations of the East. General James H. 
Carleton of the California Column had already arrived 
at his destination, the banks of the Rio Grande; and on 
September 18 he succeeded General Canby in command of 
the Department of New Mexico which included the district 
of Arizona then to the south but soon to be on the west. 

Behold then, Carson's commander for the next four 
years: James H. Carleton, aged forty-eight, Maine born 
and raised, appointed from Maine to the First Dragoons, 
1839; brevetted major for gallantry at Buena Vista, major 
of the First Dragoons, and as such paying to Carson, his 
chief scout, the tribute of a hat; colonel of the First Cali- 


fornia Infantry, brigadier general for the Department of 
New Mexico. Carleton was a fighter, a gentleman and a 
Christian, at once soldier and citizen, to whom the South- 
west owes more than it yet has acknowledged. The records 
of the Carleton rule, 1862-1866, in New Mexico, as com- 
piled amidst the plainly bound tomes which form the reports 
of general officers during the Rebellion, are convincing 
token of the wonderful activity of the man. A very dynamo 
of energy, relentless as a chastiser, kindly as an adviser, un- 
wavering in policy yet charitable in performance, with mind 
broad enough to see that he was building a state and not 
merely occupying it, he was a chief most fitting to help 
shape aright the character of Carson, new to army 
command. 185 

General Carleton was not slow to appreciate that in his 
command he had perhaps the most skillful Indian fighter in 
the West; and upon Colonel Christopher Carson devolved 
the campaign, first, against the Mescalero tribe, or the 
White Mountain Apaches, whose range was that rolling 
region from the lower Rio Grande, say at Fort Craig, east 
to the Pecos. The Mescaleros were not so vicious as other 
Apaches, but the Texan retreat had bequeathed the victors 
a legacy of quarrel, and to the Mescalero, once incensed, all 
whites looked alike. 

From his command at Fort Craig, during the summer, 
Colonel Carson had advanced up the river, as if gravitating 
toward that home which was so often uppermost in his 
mind. In September he was at Los Lunas, just below Albu- 
querque, with A and G companies seven officers, ninety- 
four men' of his First New Mexican Cavalry. Again 
in the fall he was at Albuquerque. But this respite, this 
approach to the ease of peace, was effectually broken by 
Special Orders No. 176 from headquarters, where sat a 
soldier who brooked no rest in anybody until rest was 
further earned. 



SANTA FE, N. M., September 27, 1862. 


III. Fort Stanton, on the Bonito River, in the country of the 
Mescalero Apaches, will without delay be reoccupied by five 
companies of Colonel Christopher Carson's regiment of 
New Mexico Volunteers. * * * Colonel Carson will 
receive instructions as to the particular duties of his command 
while serving in the Mescalero country. The world-wide repu- 
tation of Colonel Carson as a partisan gives a good guaranty 
that anything that may be required of him, which brings into 
practical operation the peculiar skill and high courage for 

which he is justly celebrated, will be well done. 

* * *'* * * * * * * 

By command of Brigadier General Carleton: 


First Lieutenant, C. V., A. A. A. General. 
Official: BEN C. CUTLER, 

Assistant Adjutant General. 

General Carleton explained the order in his report to the 
Adjutant General of the Army : 

I find that during the raid which was made into this territory 
by some armed men from Texas, under Brigadier General 
Sibley, of the army of the so-called Confederate States, the 
Indians, aware that the attention of our troops could not, for 
the time, be turned toward them, commenced robbing the 
inhabitants of their stock, and killed, in various places, a 
great number of people; the Navajoes on the western side, and 
the Mescalero Apaches on the eastern side of the settlements, 
both committing these outrages at the same time. * * * 

To punish and control the Mescaleros, I have ordered Fort 
Stanton to be reoccupied. That post is in the heart of their 
country, and hitherto when troops occupied it those Indians 
were at peace. I have sent Colonel Christopher Carson (Kit 
Carson), with five companies of his regiment of New Mexican 
Volunteers, to Fort Stanton. 

Against the Mescaleros marched Colonel Carson, over- 
taken en route by a dispatch from headquarters giving him 


free hand and tight rein. " All Indian men of that tribe 
are to be killed whenever and wherever you can find them." 


If the Indians send in a flag and desire to treat for peace, 
say to the bearer that when the people of New Mexico were 
attacked by the Texans, the Mescaleros broke their treaty of 
peace, and murdered innocent people, and ran off their stock ; 
that now our hands are united, and you have been sent to 
punish them for their treachery and their crimes; that you 
have no power to make peace ; that you are there to kill them 
wherever you can find them ; that if they beg for peace, their 
chiefs and twenty of their principal men must come to Santa Fe 
to have a talk here; but tell them fairly and frankly that you 
will keep after their people and slay them until you receive 
orders to desist from these headquarters ; that this making of 
treaties for them to break whenever they have an interest in 
breaking them will not be done any more; that that time has 
passed by; that we have no faith in their promises; that we 
believe if we kill some of their men in fair, open war, they will 
be apt to remember that it will be better for them to remain at 
peace than to be at war. I trust that this severity, in the long 
run, will be the most humane course that could be pursued 
toward these Indians. 

You observe that there is a large force helping you. I do not 
wish to tie your hands by instructions ; the whole duty can be 
summed up in a few words: The Indians are to be soundly 
whipped, without parleys or councils except as above. Be care- 
ful not to mistake the troops from below for Texans. If a force 
of rebels comes, you know how to annoy it ; how to stir up their 
camps and stock by night ; how to lay waste the prairie by fire ; 
how to make the country very warm for them, and the road a 
difficult one. Do this, and keep me advised of all you do. 

At Fort Stanton, vacant after the retirement of the 
Texans, the flag was again raised. The results were 
prompt. Captain William McCleave of the California 
Volunteers found the Mescaleros, mustering 100 warriors, 
opposing him at the portal Dog Canon, and with his two 
companies he drove them in flight. At the end of October 

00 g 

W w 



h 3 

w o 


Captain Thomas Graydon (who commanded the Spy Com- 
pany at Valverde) while on a scout with his company met 
old Manuelito, head chief of the Mescaleros, and his band. 
Although they were already bound for Santa Fe to ask 
peace, he fired upon them, killed outright Manuelito, four 
warriors, and a woman ; and, in pursuit, shot down others. 
Astounded and alarmed by this precipitate campaign 
which was invading their fastnesses with its diamond-cut- 
diamond policy, the Mescalero leaders now did not venture 
to take time for the required trip to Santa Fe, but in hope 
of safety and out of faith in the well-known Kit Carson, 
they made straight for Fort Stanton. As they had trusted, 
Carson did not murder them. He told them, however, 
that he had no authority to make treaties with them as in 
previous days, but that they must go up to Santa Fe and 
submit to the irascible " big chief " there. So he sent them 
along, five of them, under escort ; and they arrived in safety 
about November 23. 

You are stronger than we (thus is reported the speech of 
Gian-nah-tah to General Carleton). We have fought you 
so long as we had rifles and powder; but your weapons are 
better than ours. Give us like weapons and turn us loose, 
we will fight you again; but we are worn out; we have no 
more heart; we have no provisions, no means to live; your 
troops are everywhere ; our springs and water-holes are either 
occupied or overlooked by your young men. You have driven 
us from our last and best stronghold, and we have no more 
heart. Do with us as may seem good to you, but do not forget 
we are men and braves. 

Already, under General Orders No. 193, date November 
4, a board of officers had been ordered to locate in that 
region on the upper Pecos northeast of Fort Stanton, 
150 miles southeast of Fort Union and 165 southeast of 
Santa Fe called the Bosque Redondo (Round Grove), 
a new fort, of which the title should be Fort Sumner. 


Thither the Mescaleros were sent, with orders that they 
be housed and fed, until, when the whole tribe should be 
assembled, " we can then conclude a definite treaty, and 
let them all return again to inhabit their proper country." 

The Graydon affair brought an official investigation and 
reprimand for that overzealous officer ; but the result could 
not be gainsaid. Manuelito and Jose Largo (Big Joe) his 
cooperator were dead and with nine companies of Indian 
haters, New Mexicans and Calif ornians, searching the chap- 
arral with Sharp's carbines, and looking for scalps and 
booty rather than prisoners, the day of the Mescalero 
seemed early eclipsed. In lieu thereof rose the day of the 
Bosque Redondo that fond colonization scheme of Gen- 
eral Carleton's, which, like many another dream solving the 
Indian problem, proved to be, after all, one of vain hopes. 

However, as driven or persuaded in, band by band for- 
warded from Fort Stanton to new Fort Sumner, the Mes- 
caleros were rapidly concentrated at the Bosque Redondo; 
and although outlawed squads of the Apaches continued to 
make the whole territory from the Mesilla Valley of the 
border up to Fort Union of the Santa Fe trail perilous 
for soldier and citizen alike, on March 19, 1863, General 
Carleton was emboldened to report to Washington : 

GENERAL : I have the honor to inform you that the opera- 
tions of the troops against the Mescalero Apaches have resulted 
in bringing in as prisoners about four hundred men, women 
and children of that tribe, from their fastnesses in the moun- 
tains about Fort Stanton, to Fort Sumner, at the Bosque 
Redondo, on the Pecos River. This leaves about one hundred, 
the remainder of that tribe, who are reported as having fled 
to Mexico and to join the Gila Apaches. Against these last, 
the Gila Apaches, vigorous hostilities are prosecuted, as I have 
already informed you. Want of troops and of forage has pre- 
vented any operations against the Navajoes. Now that the 
Mescaleros are subdued, I shall send the whole of Colonel 
Carson's regiment against the Navajoes, who still continue 


to plunder and murder the people. This regiment will take 
the field against them early in May. Already I have com- 
menced drawing the companies in from the Mescalero country 
preparatory to such movement. 

And he seals the fate of the Mescalero by adding : 

It is my purpose to induce the Mescaleros to settle on a 
reservation near Fort Sumner at the Bosque Redondo, on the 
Pecos River. The superintendent of Indian affairs for New 
Mexico and myself proceed to that point, starting today, to 
have " the talk " with them with reference to this matter. 
My purpose is to have them fed and kept there under sur- 
veillance; to have them plant a crop this year; to have them, 
in short, become what is called in this country a pueblo. If 
they are once permitted to go at large again, the same trouble 
and expense will again have to be gone through with to punish 
and subdue them. They will murder and rob unless kept from 
doing it by fear and force. 

At the same time Colonel Christopher Carson, whose 
office has largely been that of commander directing from 
headquarters at the fort, and of forwarding agent, was 
given short leave (which he never was in mood to decline) 
to visit his family. 


HP HE name Navajo has come down to us almost white 
* as compared with the crimson name Apache. But the 
Mexicans knew the title well as that of an ogre by which 
other than children were to be frightened. When from their 
northern canons and plateaus rode these " Lords of the 
North," and through the Mexican villages pealed the cry 
" Navajo, Navajo! " uttered by a score of savage throats, 
how quickly the inhabitants blanched and fled ! The Navajo 
recked no master. As Superintendent Amos Steck reports 
in September, 1863, " Not since the acquisition of New 
Mexico in 1847 have the Navajos been at peace." Six 
treaties with them were broken even before they had been 
ratified. Out of this condition 

four campaigns against the Navajoes resulted, in three of 
which our army failed of either success or glory. In the fourth 
the Indians succumbed to the superior strategy of the re- 
nowned Kit Carson, and were compelled, by hunger, to 
surrender. 186 

True Bedouins were the Navajos true Ishmaelites, 
their hand against every man and every man's hand against 
them. With their flocks and their herds, their looms and 
their orchards, and their kindly treatment of their w r omen, 
yet with the migratory instincts which forbade any settled 
village, sending them hither and yon through the summer, 
and housing them in rude hogans and the canons in the 
winter, they stand out distinct as an independent, aboriginal 
people. Strange, that a pastoral folk, today wealthy as 



compared with other tribes, still aloof and united, troubling 
not the white world and of the white world asking naught, 
should have so scourged the Southwest. 

General Kearny in 1846 found the Navajos at war with 
the country; he promised protection for the citizens, sub- 
jugation for the enemy and scarcely had he thus given 
his pledge when, in his very sight, the underrated Lords of 
the North drove off some of his stock. 

Thereupon the doughty Missourian, Colonel Doniphan, 
and the fighting statesman, William Gilpin, proceeded 
against the Navajo, and made a treaty. In 1847 Major 
Walker, in 1848 Colonel E. W. B. Newby, in 1849 Colonel 
John M. Washington successively marched to the Canon 
de Chelly, made treaties, and marched back again. As for 
the Washington treaty 

a party of the same Indians who were present when the 
treaty was signed, reached the settlements in advance of the 
colonel's command, and stole a large number of mules that 
were grazing near this place, almost in sight of the flag staff 
which stands in the Plaza. 187 

In the winter of 1851-52 Colonel E. V. Sumner, sent out 
by the Government to organize this troublesome and costly 
New Mexico, settle the Indian question, and cut down 
expenses, had the doubtful pleasure of obtaining from the 
Navajos still another treaty. Thereafter he, also, marched 
against them, as far as the Canon de Chelly ; but " believing 
his force insufficient to meet the enemy, concluded to retreat, 
which, it is thought by some, he did rather hurriedly." 
This doubtless was one of those experiences which prompted 
the colonel to advise, in May, 1852, that the territory of 
New Mexico was not worth retaining, and that it would 
be a good stroke of the United States to " withdraw all 
the troops and civil officers " and to exercise merely a 


Fort Defiance was established, in the very midst of the 
Navajo country, " and for a time produced more effect upon 
the Indians than all the expeditions that had been made 
against them." 

Colonel Edward R. S. Canby had been the last man, 
before General James H. Carleton, to proceed against the 
Navajos. In the winter of 1 860-61, by the most successful 
of all the army campaigns up to that date he had brought 
the enemy not only to another treaty but also apparently 
to a realization that the American soldiery was a new 
and stern kind of foe. To this treaty twenty-two chiefs 
appended their marks "a greater number than on any 
previous occasion." 

From this fact and other concurrent causes, it was believed 
that permanent peace and security was at last bestowed on the 
Territory, and commensurate to the boon was the joy of the 
people. Grain and other seeds were given to the Indians, 
and they made gardens after their own mode and fashion 

But the Navajos were a pastoral rather than an agricul- 
tural people, and their herds, as well as their crops, had been 
badly decreased through the incessant wars. So, pending 
the time when they would be again self-supporting, they 
broke the truce of a year, and the treaty also, and by 1862 
were more active than ever. Their raids extended from 
their central base, where northern Arizona and New Mex- 
ico meet, as far as the lower Rio Grande and into the coun- 
try of the Mescaleros. Indeed, they boldly stampeded stock 
from the Bosque Redondo itself. 

With the same thoroughness with which he would clean 
his house of the Apache, General Carleton in the spring of 
1863 started in to clean his house of the Navajo. 

Again the Bosque Redondo was to be the concentration 
point; and the Navajos as well as the Apaches were to be 


herded under surveillance. September 6, Carleton thus 
announced his plans to Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas, 
at Washington: 

The knowledge of the perfidy of these Navajoes, gained after 
two centuries of experience, is such as to lead us to put no 
faith in their promises. They have no government to make 
treaties. They are a patriarchal people. One set of families 
may make promises, but the other set will not heed them. 
They understand the direct application of force as a law. If 
its application be removed, that moment they become lawless. 
This has been tried over and over, and over again, and at great 
expense. The purpose now is never to relax the application of 
force with a people that can no more be trusted than you can 
trust the wolves that run through their mountains; to gather 
them together, little by little, on to a reservation, away from 
the haunts, and hills, and hiding-places of their country, and 
then to be kind to them; there teach their children how to 
read and write; teach them the arts of peace; teach them the 
truths of Christianity. Soon they will acquire new habits, 
new ideas, new modes of life ; the old Indians will die off, and 
carry with them all latent longings for murdering and rob- 
bing ; the young ones will take their places without these long- 
ings ; and thus, little by little, they will become a happy and 
contented people, and Navajo wars will be remembered only 
as something that belongs entirely to the past. Even until they 
can raise enough to be self-sustaining, you can feed them 
cheaper than you can fight them. 

Such was the plan, to the spirit of which no one may 
take exception; and as the truant officer, so to speak, Kit 
Carson was naturally selected. Not until June were the 
arrangements completed, although there was correspon- 
dence with Carson at Taos, in April, when he was advised 
from headquarters to hire as guide for the proposed expe- 
dition one Manzaneres, of Abiquiu, former captive among 
the Navajos, and also ten " of the best Ute warriors, and 
say four of the best Mexican guides, as spies and guides." 

In May Colonel Carson was at Santa Fe for a council 


with the department commander over details of the cam- 
paign. And next were issued the decisive General Orders 
No. 15: 

SANTA FE, N. M., June 15, 1863. 

I. For a long time past the Navajo Indians have murdered 
and robbed the people of New Mexico. Last winter, when 
eighteen of their chiefs came to Santa Fe to have a talk, they 
were warned, and were told to inform their people that, for 
these murders and robberies, the tribe must be punished, unless 
some binding guarantees should be given that in future these 
outrages should cease. No such guarantees have yet been 
given ; but, on the contrary, additional murders and additional 
robberies have been perpetrated upon the persons and property 
of our unoffending citizens. It is therefore ordered that 
Colonel Christopher Carson, with a proper military force, pro- 
ceed without delay to a point in the Navajo country known 
as Pueblo Colorado, and there establish a defensible depot 
for his supplies and hospital, and thence to prosecute a vigorous 
war upon the men of this tribe until it is considered, at these 
headquarters, that they have been effectually punished for their 
long-continued atrocities. 

The following comprises the force alluded to above : 


Colonel Christopher Carson, 1st New Mexico volunteers, 

Captain A. B. Carey, United States army, chief quarter- 

First Lieutenant Richard S. Barrett, 1st infantry California 
volunteers, chief commissary. 

First Lieutenant Lawrence G. Murphy, adjutant, ist New 
Mexico volunteers. 

Major Joseph Cummings, ist New Mexico volunteers. 

Major Arthur Morrison, ist New Mexico volunteers. 

Surgeon Allen F. Peck, ist New Mexico volunteers. 

Rev. Damaso Taladrid, chaplain ist New Mexico volunteers. 

Companies K, L, and M will proceed from Fort Union, New 


Mexico, to Los Pinos, New Mexico, starting the day after the 
military commission adjourns which has been ordered to 
assemble at Fort Union. 

Companies A, H, and G have heretofore been ordered to 
rendezvous at Los Pinos. 

Companies B and C, now at Fort Wingate, will be in readi- 
ness to move at a day's notice. 

Colonel Carson will require, and receive, two mountain 
howitzers on prairie carriages, with an adequate supply of 
ammunition, etc., to be used in defence of his depot at Pueblo 

These troops will march from Los Pinos for the Navajo 
, country on Wednesday, July I, 1863. 

The chiefs of the quartermaster, subsistence, medical, and 
ordnance departments will furnish, on Colonel Carson's requi- 
sition, such spies and guides, means of transportation, intrench- 
ing tools, quartermaster property, clothing, camp and garrison 
equipage, subsistence stores, hospital stores, medicines, arms, 
and ammunition as may be necessary to equip and provide 
completely for his command to insure to it the cardinal 
requirements of health, food, mobility, and power. 

III. A board of officers, to consist of Colonel Christopher 
Carson, 1st New Mexico volunteers; Major Henry D. Wallen, 
United States army, acting inspector general; Surgeon James 
M. McNulty, United States volunteers, medical inspector; 
Brevet Captain Allen L. Anderson, United States army, acting 
engineer officer; and Captain Benjamin C. Cutler, assistant 
adjutant general United States volunteers, will proceed with 
Colonel Carson's command to the locality known as Pueblo 
Colorado, in the Navajo country, and select and mark out, at 
or as near that place as practicable, the exact site for a military 
post, to be garrisoned by four companies of cavalry and four 
companies of infantry. 

A map of the surrounding country will accompany the report 
of the board, as well as a ground-plan of the post, an estimate 
of its cost, and its measured distance from the Rio Grande. 

The geographical position of the post will be fixed instru- 

Unless otherwise ordered by competent authority, this new 
post will be known as Fort Canby, in honor of Brigadier 


General E. R. S. Canby, United States army, the recent 
commander of the department of New Mexico. 
By command of Brigadier General Carleton. 

Assistant Adjutant General. 

F. P. Abreii, A. H. Pfeiffer, J. L. Barbey, Charles Deiis, 
John Thompson, Joseph Birney, Francis McCabe, Eben 
Everett, and Jose de Sena were the company commanders. 
The force consisted of twenty-seven officers, 709 men, and 
260 were unmounted. 

On June 23, Lieutenant Colonel J. Francisco Chaves, 
commanding at old Fort Wingate on that Gallo River the 
name of which appears to have survived in the station of 
Gallup (Arizona), was directed by Carleton to inform the 
Navajo chiefs upon the proposed war, which was to be 
for submission or extermination. All Navajos who claimed 
to desire peace and who were " good Navajos " must come 
into Wingate, at once, there to be given transportation to 
the Bosque Redondo, their future home. 

Send for Delgadito and Barboncito again and repeat what 
I before told them, and tell them that I shall feel very sorry 
if they refuse to come in ; that we have no desire to make war 
upon them and other good Navajoes; but the troops cannot 
tell the good from the bad, and we neither can nor will tolerate 
their staying as a peace party among those against whom we 
intend to make war. Tell them they can have until the twen- 
tieth day of July of this year to come in they and all those 
who belong to what they call the peace party; that after that 
day every Navajo that is seen will be considered as hostile and 
treated accordingly; that after that day the door now open will 
be closed. Tell them to say all this to their people, and that 
as sure as that the sun shines all this will come true. 

Some came in ; more did not. And at the dry-wash of the 
Rio Pueblo Colorado (Red Town River), in northeastern 
Arizona, west of Fort Defiance, Colonel Carson established 
Fort Canby the last week in July. 


For the majority of the companies, the orders indicated 
a hard march, without adequate water, from the Rio Grande 
into the Navajo field. The first stage was to the Rio Puerco, 
by the trail fifty miles; the next was to old Fort Wingate, 
sixty miles. Carson accompanied the main command from 
Albuquerque. A short halt was made to organize at Fort 
Wingate. 189 

The command arrived late in the afternoon, and after getting 
settled down, one of the men went to the company clerk, 
and asked him to write an order on the post commissary, that 
he might purchase a quart of molasses ; the order was required 
to be signed by the commanding officer of the post, who was 
then Colonel Carson. The man went over to the colonel's 
quarters, and presenting his order asked him to sign it as he 
was not well explaining to the colonel the purport of the 
order. The colonel, who was always the best-natured of men, 
signed it, and the man got his molasses. The man upon his 
return to his quarters, informed his friends that he believed 
the colonel could not read manuscript, and related his experi- 
ence. It was the regulations of the post that no enlisted man 
could purchase whiskey at the sutler's except upon the order 
of the commanding officer. So one of the men, who was 
anxious to get some whiskey, thought that he would try and 
see what he could do with the colonel in this direction. He 
had the company clerk write an order on the sutler for a 
canteen of whiskey (price of which was $5). He accordingly 
appeared with it before the colonel and told him that he was 
not feeling well and that he would like to get some molasses at 
the commissary's. The colonel signed the order as before, and 
the man obtained the canteen of whiskey at the sutler's and 
paid for the same. The news soon spread through the com- 
pany and for the next two weeks there was a brisk business 
at the sutler store. It happened that then Colonel Carson made 
a visit to the sutler's and looking around asked, kindly : " Well, 
John (the sutler's name was John Waters), how 's business?" 
John answered that it was fine he had sold two barrels of 
whiskey by the canteen, to H company ! Upon this the colonel 
waxed warm, and said : " John, do n't you know that it 's 
agin regulations to sell whiskey to enlisted men of the post 


without the written order of the commanding officer ? " Waters 
replied that he knew it very well ; and he added that every sale 
had been made upon written order. To prove it, he went 
behind the counter and showed his order string a wire set 
in a block of wood and holding already a foot of orders! 
After this Colonel Carson would not sign an order until his 
adjutant, Lieutenant Lawrence Murphy, had read it first. 190 

This being Kit Carson's first large command in the field, 
he was somewhat bothered in the handling of it. He was 
fortunate in having at his elbow Captain Carey, Regular, 
who could and did advise him. The rules of discipline 
were what embarrassed him the most. He must be refused, 
kindly but emphatically, his ill-timed requests for leave of 
absence; and, on September 19, he is informed by orders 
from headquarters : 

COLONEL : By custom of service, no officer who is not com- 
petent to order a general court-martial can order a court of 
inquiry, excepting in the case of an enlisted man, when a 
colonel commanding a regiment may order the court (DeHart, 
272, 273). You will, therefore, annul all proceedings of any 
such court in the case of Lieutenant Hodt. 

Non-commissioned officers must not be reduced to the ranks 
within your regiment by any person's orders but your own. 
The regulations must be your guide in all such matters, or 
the discipline of your regiment will be bad. 191 

The campaign has gone down into history as a spectacular 
achievement. But as a matter of fact the character of the 
country and of the foe, together with the character of the 
officer commanding in the field, forbade the spectacular; 
and the crowning effort of all that passage of the Canon 
de Chelly which alone was spectacular, fell to the lot of a 
subordinate, Captain Albert Pfeiffer. The campaign 

was one of constant hard scouting with now and then a skir- 
mish ; the idea being to wear the Indians out by capture of 


their herds of sheep and ponies (they had no other live stock), 
the destruction of their fields of corn, beans, pumpkins, etc. ; 
the covering by occupancy by small detachments of troops, 
of all water supply, which in the end would result in acceptance 
by them of General Carleton's terms. The same policy was 
pursued in the campaign of 1 860-61 commanded by Col. E. R. 
S. Canby when the Navajoes were pushed in the same way 
to final surrender, the only difference being that peace was 
made by General Canby, the Indians remaining in their own 
country, whereas in the campaign of 1863-64 they were sent 
out of their own country under guard, and kept under guard 
and fed at a specified place. True, Carson's campaign was a 
great success, indeed it was the last war against the Navajoes, 
and to General Carleton belongs the credit of its great success, 
inasmuch as he pursued them to a reservation and confined 
them to it. 192 

To carry out such a policy for a campaign, Kit Carson, 
thorough plainsman and mountaineer, and as thoroughly 
versed in all the wants, likes, and dislikes of the Indian, was 
the very man. With the 1,000 troops operating out of Fort 
Wingate and Fort Canby as bases, results were prompt. 

To stimulate the zest of the troops and employees, a 
bonus of $20 was authorized by General Carleton as prize 
money for every sound and serviceable horse or mule cap- 
tured and delivered to the quartermaster; one dollar a 
head was allowed for sheep. But the na'ive suggestion 
from Colonel Carson (dated July 24) that to stimulate 
and reward the Ute scouts they be permitted to keep the 
women and children captured by them was repudiated with 
proper emphasis. 193 

The reports of scouting operations are brief. 194 

August 19. Colonel Christopher Carson reports that he 
left Camp Canon Bonita, August 5, 1863, on a scout for 
thirty days. On the first day out sent Sergeant Romero with 
fifteen men after two Indians seen in the vicinity; he captured 
one of their horses ; the Indians made their escape. On the 
night of the 4th instant Captain Pfeiffer captured eleven 


women and children, besides a woman and child, the former 
of whom was killed in attempting to escape, and the latter 
accidentally. Captain Pfeiffer's party also captured two other 
children, one hundred sheep and goats, and one horse. The 
Utes captured in the same vicinity eighteen horses and two 
mules, and killed one Indian. Captain Pfeiffer wounded an 
Indian, but he escaped. On the i6th, a party who were sent 
for some pack-saddles brought in one Indian woman. At this 
camp the brave Major Cummings, 1st New Mexico Volun- 
teers, was shot through the abdomen by a concealed Indian, 
and died instantly. One of the parties sent out from this camp 
captured an Indian woman. Total Indians killed, three; cap- 
tured, fifteen; wounded, one; twenty horses, two mules, and 
one hundred sheep and goats captured. Troops, one commis- 
sioned officer killed. 

August . Colonel Christopher Carson with his command 
left Pueblo Colorado on the 2Oth day of August for Canon de 
Chelly with the main force, secreting twenty-five men under 
Captain Pfeiffer in the canon to watch for Indians. Soon after, 
two Indians were seen approaching the canon, and were fired 
upon, and although badly wounded succeeded in getting away. 
On the same day the advance guard pursued and killed an 
Indian. On the 3ist the command returned to Fort Canby. 
Indian loss, one killed, two wounded. 

October 5. Colonel Carson reports that on the 22d of Sep- 
tember his command pursued a party of Indians, but, owing 
to the broken-down condition of his animals, they only suc- 
ceeded in capturing one. On the 2d day of October discovered 
a small Indian village which had just been abandoned; this 
was destroyed, nineteen animals captured, seven of which got 
away. Three men left camp to hunt up the animals which had 
escaped; they did not return until after the command had 
returned to Fort Canby ; they state that they were attacked by 
a party of Indians when within five miles of the post, one of 
whom they killed. One of the men, named Artin, was severely 
wounded and the Indians captured his mule. On the 3d day of 
October Lieutenant Postle discovered an Indian, pursued him 
and wounded him in three places; the lieutenant was slightly 
wounded by the Indian. Indian loss, one killed, one wounded, 
and one captured, twelve animals captured. Our loss, one 
officer and one private wounded and one mule lost. 


November 15. Colonel Carson with his command left Fort 
Canby for the country west of the Oribi villages, for the pur- 
pose of chastising the Navajo Indians inhabiting that region. 
On the 1 6th a detachment, under Sergeant Andres Herrera, 
overtook a small party of Indians, two of whom were killed 
and two wounded; fifty sheep and one horse were captured; 
Colonel Carson speaks in high terms of the zeal and energy 
displayed by Sergeant Herrera. 

On the 25th the command captured one boy and seven 
horses and destroyed an encampment; on the same day cap- 
tured one woman and one child, and about five hundred head 
of sheep and goats, seventy horses, and destroyed an Indian 
village. On the 3d of December surprised an Indian encamp- 
ment, capturing one horse and four oxen. The Indians 
escaped. Indian loss, two killed, two wounded, three cap- 
tured; 550 sheep and goats, nine horses, and four oxen 

Operations were carried on at the same time out of 
Wingate, Craig, Los Lunas, Sumner, McRae, and other 
forts. The Fort Canby reports show that the soldiery were 
by no means uniformly successful, and it is not difficult to 
cull other reports favorable to the cause of the red man : 

August 6. Captain E. H. Bergman reports that a party of 
company I, 1st New Mexico Volunteers, in charge of a herd 
of beef cattle, were attacked by a body of Navajoes on the 226. 
July, near Conchas springs. The party consisted of Sergeant 
Jose Lucero and Privates Juan F. Ortiz and Jose Banneras, 
who fought the Indians from n a. m. until after sundown, 
killing and wounding several of them. The Indians succeeded 
in killing Sergeant Luc'ero and Private Ortiz. Private Ban- 
neras, being severely wounded by eight arrow-shots, gathered 
up the muskets and pistols of his dead comrades and threw 
them into the springs. The Indians fractured his skull with 
rocks and left him for dead, but he recovered towards morning 
and made his way to Chaparita. The Indians drove off the 
cattle; (number not stated). 

January 3 (1864). Wagonmaster Russell's train en route 
to Fort Canby, New Mexico, was attacked near the Puerco by 


about one hundred and fifty Navajo Indians. Mr. Russell 
was killed ; Mr. Strong and two teamsters wounded. The three 
leading wagons were cut off and twenty mules were taken by 
the Indians, together with some corn, blankets, &c. This 
information was forwarded to the commanding general of the 
department by Major John C. McFerran, chief quartermaster, 
with the following remarks : " Respectfully referred to the 
department commander for his information. This Wagon- 
master Russell is Powell Russell, who entered the service of the 
Quartermaster's department as a teamster, a poor, illiterate boy, 
in 1853. By his honesty, industry, modesty, truth, and energy, 
he rose to be principal or head wagonmaster in the department. 
This position he has filled to the perfect satisfaction of every 
one, and has now fallen like a true man, as he was, at his 
post and doing his duty. It will be very, very difficult to 
replace him." 

But while the campaign had its setbacks, and while for 
a time a very hornets' nest of Navajos seemed to have 
been aroused, so that even the posts were beset, the moral 
effect soon became evident. 

In the first week of September, General Carleton was 
enabled to report to Adjutant General Thomas, of Army 
Headquarters at Washington, that a first detachment of 
fifty-one Navajos, men, women and children, had been sent 
to the Bosque Redondo. By September 10 the Navajos 
began to treat for peace, and were given by Carson, through 
fresh instructions from Carleton, the Grant terms of 
" unconditional surrender." These they digested. Mean- 
while the stern war went on attack and foray and reprisal, 
with the Indians steadily losing. 

Another month, and a delegation of the chiefs appeared 
at Wingate, to test out the temper of their " father " there, 
whose query to headquarters received the admonition from 
Carleton's assistant adjutant general : " The department 
commander having decided that all Navajo Indians who 
desire peace must go to the Bosque Redondo, he directs 


me to say that further correspondence on this subject is 

In another month, or by the middle of November, 188 
Navajos had surrendered at Fort Wingate, for transporta- 
tion to the Bosque Redondo. Although a pitched battle be- 
tween troops and bold Navajo raiders occurred December 
1 6 within thirty-five miles of Fort Sumner itself at the 
Bosque Redondo, and although at the same time the same 
tribe ran off from Fort Canby thirty-eight of Colonel Car- 
son's best mules, at the close of the year of 1863 the Navajo 
influx actually had commenced. Colonel Carson evinced a 
strong desire for a few days' respite from the field and out- 
post duty and at this time came the following message : 

The department commander congratulates the troops and 
the people on the auspicious opening of the year 1864. For 
one hundred and eighty years the Navajo Indians have ravaged 
New Mexico, but it is confidently expected that the year 1864 
will witness the end of hostilities with that tribe. Then New 
Mexico will take a stride towards that great prosperity which 
has lain within her grasp, but which hitherto she has not been 
permitted to enjoy. 

General Carleton did not reckon without his host. Nor 
did Colonel Carson, hoping for a change of scene, reckon 
without his, although the leave for which he applied was not 
in accordance with those ironclad army regulations the in- 
tricacies of which he, as a civilian in the volunteer service, 
had some difficulty in mastering. December 6 his general 
addresses him : " As I have before written you, I have 
not the authority to grant you a leave. * * * Please 
forward no more applications for leaves of absence." 

But a consultation " about future operations " was per- 
missible, and " therefore, as soon as you have secured one 
hundred captive Navajo men, women and children, you will 
turn over the command of the troops and post of Fort 


Canby to Captain Carey, United States Army, and come 
with those captives to Santa Fe. * * * It is desirable 
that you go through the Canon de Chelly before you come/' 
This canon, " thirty miles in length, with walls a thou- 
sand feet high," located some fifty miles north of old Fort 
Defiance, Arizona, and about the same distance from Fort 
Canby, is one of the most noted of those natural donjons 
which the land of the Navajo boasts, and which Kit Carson 
regarded, even after he had conquered the defenders, as 
impregnable to direct attack. Investment by siege was the 
only successful course. 

In the main Canon de Chelly they had some two or three 
thousand peach trees, which were mostly destroyed by my 
troops. Colonel Sumner, in the fall of 1851, went into the 
Canon de Chelly with several hundred men, but had to retreat 
out of it at night. In the walls of the canons they have regular 
houses built in the crevices from which they fire and roll down 
huge stones on an enemy. They have regular fortifications, 
averaging from one to two hundred feet from the bottom, with 
portholes for firing. No small-arms can injure them, and 
artillery cannot be used. In one of the crevices I found a two- 
story house. I regard these canons as impregnable. General 
Canby entered this canon, but retreated out the next morning. 
When I captured the Navajoes I first destroyed their crops, 
and harassed them until the snow fell very deep in the canons, 
taking some prisoners occasionally * * * I took twelve 
hundred sheep from them at one time, and smaller lots at 
different times. * * * It took me and three hundred men 
most of one day to destroy a field of corn. 195 

There are other canons in Navajo land. The Canon 
Chaco, at the east border of the present reservation, in 
northeastern New Mexico, is as celebrated for its grandeur 
and its ruins. But the Canon de Chelly had long been con- 
sidered as the chief fastness of the tribe. Like all canons in 
the plateau country, it consists of a main artery, with side 
canons coming in. The houses and forts to which the Car- 


son extract refers were not built by Navajo hands, but 
long antedated the Navajo possession of the country. 

Before the march through it by Captain Pfeiffer's column, 
on January 12 and 13, 1864, the canon had indeed been 
traversed by an American detachment; but not (as Colonel 
Carson himself remarks in his report) in time of war. 
In July, 1859, Lieutenant Walker of the Mounted Rifles, 
with a scouting party and accompanied by Alexander Baker, 
agent at Fort Defiance, entered the canon about two miles 
from its head and followed it to its mouth. The Navajos, 
then cultivating their corn, were hospitable to civilians, but 
objected to showing the country to the riflemen. 196 

The reports of rock-niche fortresses, of huge stones to be 
rolled down, of heights, manned by the Navajo, but so beet- 
ling that arrows were spent before they reached the bottom, 
of narrow defiles where only one man at a time could 
squeeze through these made the Canon de Chelly sound 
formidable. And Colonel D. S. Miles, who had investi- 
gated a portion of it, left the word : " No command should 
ever again enter it." 

However, Kit Carson's reputation was at stake; and he 
was now under orders. Replying to the dispatch of General 
Carleton he announced from Fort Canby, date of December 
26, 1863: 

I have the honor to report for the information of the general 
commanding that I have made all the necessary arrangements 
to visit the Canon de Chelly and will leave this post for that 
purpose with my command on the third or fourth of next 
month. * * * Of one thing the General may rest assured, 
that before my return all that is connected with this canon will 
cease to be a mystery. It will be thoroughly explored, if per- 
severance and zeal with the numbers at my command can 

The now celebrated Canon de Chelly expedition left Fort 
Canby on the morning of January 6, 1864. Carson, attack- 


ing the problem methodically, preceded his column with an 
ox train of supplies for the prospective headquarters camp 
to be established at the west end of the canon. But the 
snow, upon which he counted as an ally, impeded the oxen 
and in a march of twenty-five miles, hauling the wagons 
through the drifts, twenty-seven animals perished from 

Simultaneously with leaving Fort Canby for the west 
opening of the canon, Colonel Carson detached Captain 
Pfeiffer with H Company and thirty-three men of E Com- 
pany, First New Mexican Cavalry (which had been ordered 
to Canby from Wingate), in all about 100, rank and file, 
for the east opening, to assist him from there in bottling 
the Navajos. 

The laboring and miserable ox train was overtaken as it 
toiled along at the rate of five miles a day. Loads were 
lightened ; and with the train and his command Colonel Car- 
son pushed on, arriving at the west end of the canon on 
January 12. Sergeant Andres Herrera, of C Company, and 
a detachment of fifty men inaugurated the campaign by a 
brisk skirmish with a squad of Navajos who were making 
for a side entrance to the canon. They killed eleven and 
captured two women, two children, and 130 sheep and goats. 

On the morning of the i3th Colonel Carson, having estab- 
lished his camp as a base and a receiving depot, assigned his 
command into two columns, one under Captain Carey, the 
other under Captain Joseph Birney of the volunteers, for 
the purpose of a preliminary scout to reconnoitre either rim 
of the great crevasse; to see what was the practicability of 
descending midway, and what the practicability of flanking. 
The south rim proffered only a sheer depth of 1,000 feet, 
but it was unbroken by side canons and therefore admitted 
of a flanking movement which might sweep that verge. 
While investigating this, Colonel Carson kept a sharp look- 
out for the Pfeiffer command. When at last he reached a 


point on the south rim which gave a view down through to 
the east opening, no trace of the Pfeiffer column could be 

Alarmed and mystified, the column, owing to lack of suf- 
ficient grass for the animals, had to retrace their trail, 
to camp. However, while the main detachments were thus 
riding around the canon, on the outside, Captain Pfeiffer 
had been going through it on the inside ! 

A frontiersman almost of the dime novel type was Albert 
H. Pfeiffer, who as captain and as major served under Kit 
Carson. In all that goes to make for recklessness and for 
daring he stood forth prominent even in those reckless, dar- 
ing days. " A fighter, who never got into a scrape with the 
Indians without being wounded," is the tribute paid to him 
by one who served upon his staff in the Navajo and Kiowa 
campaigns. For this recklessness Captain Pfeiffer could 
refer to a fount, within him, of bitter hate the hate which, 
engendered by the murder of wife and family, many another 
frontiersman cherished throughout a lifetime. 197 

Under orders to proceed from Fort Canby to the east 
end of the canon, and there to operate carefully, Captain 
Pfeiffer and his men, traveling light with a pack train, 
reached the point of destination on the i ith, and made camp. 
The snow was two feet deep and two men suffered frozen 
feet. But without waiting to reconnoitre, Captain Pfeiffer, 
after a brief rest of preparation, immediately plunged into 
the depths plunged in with the anticipation of a Fremont. 
Evidently he wanted to be first. 

He divided his command into three parties, with an 
advance of pioneers bearing picks and shovels for clearing 
the trail. The first twelve miles must be traversed in the 
icy bed of the stream, through which the animals frequently 
broke. On the I2th they traveled eight miles, the Indians 
" whooping and cursing, shooting and throwing rocks." 
Ruins were seen ; one set was named Carey Castle, in honor 


of Captain Carey. The canon sides were so steep that the 
Indians could not be pursued; and the distances so vast 
that even the carbines were inadequate. The canon waxed 
to depths of 1,200 and 1,500 feet in places spreading out 
into beautiful savannas, cultivated to fields and orchards, in 
others closing in a narrow zigzag, with fastnesses 300 and 
400 feet up among the snowy crags. Reads the sprightly 
Pfeiffer report: 

Here the Navajoes sought refuge when pursued by the 
invading force, whether of neighboring tribes or of the arms 
of the government, and here they were enabled to jump about 
on the ledges like mountain cats, hallooing at me, swearing 
and cursing and threatening vengeance on my command in 
every variety of Spanish they were capable of mustering. A 
couple of shots from my soldiers with their trusty rifles caused 
the red-skins to disperse instantly, and gave me a safe passage 
through this celebrated Gibraltar of the Navajoes. At the 
place where I encamped the curl of the smoke from my fires 
ascended to where a large body of Indians were resting over 
my head, but the height was so great that the Indians did not 
look larger than crows, and as we were too far apart to injure 
each other no damage was done except with the tongue, the 
articulation of which was scarcely audible. 198 

The canon rose and sank, widened and narrowed ; and on 
the 1 3th, or the second day, after a march estimated by him 
as thirty miles, Captain Pfeiffer emerged at the other end. 
So that, returning to camp from the scout along the south 
rim, to his " great surprise and gratification " Colonel Car- 
son found here the likewise gratified captain, 

having accomplished an undertaking never before successful 
in war-time, that of passing through the Canon de Chelly 
from east to west, and this without having had a single casualty 
in his command. He killed three Indians (two men) and 
brought in ninety prisoners (women and children). He found 
two bodies of Indians frozen to death in the canon. 199 


There seems to be no indication that Kit Carson himself 
ever traversed this canon. He must have shared the keen 
curiosity of his command; but after Captain Pfeiffer had 
rent the vail of mystery, Carson resisted any temptation to 
try for personal honors, and, instead, delegated to Captain 
Carey, who deserved the privilege, the second passage of the 

This command of seventy-five men, I conferred upon Capt. 
Carey at his own request, he being desirous of passing through 
this stupendous canon. I sent the party to return through the 
canon from west to east, that all the peach orchards, of which 
there were many, should be destroyed, as well as the dwellings 
of the Indians. I sent a competent person with the command 
to make some sketches of the canon, which, with a written 
description of the canon by Capt. Carey * * * I respectfully 

As for the colonel himself, he very properly shelved the 
active and the spectacular in favor of those responsibilities 
which were his as commanding officer. The prime object 
of the campaign was to collect and forward the Navajos; 
and for this purpose he returned to Fort Canby. Sixty 
refugees, besides those prisoners brought in, already were 
at the camp; no were found, the fruits of the Carey scout, 
at Canby. 

" Result of this expedition: Indians killed, twenty-three; 
wounded, five; prisoners, thirty- four; voluntarily surren- 
dered, two hundred; and two hundred head of sheep and 
goats captured." 

So read the report by General Carleton; but the results 
were wider reaching than this. After two centuries the 
Navajos were subdued ; the back of their resistance had been 
broken. By hundreds they came in, submitting to that will 
of the Americano which intended not torture nor slavery but 
protection, even succor, ill advised though that succor 
proved to be. 


Within three weeks, or on February 14, there were 1,000 
Navajos at Fort Canby; another ten days, and there were 
1,500 and 3,464 had been forwarded to Los Pinos, from 
Canby and Wingate, for the Bosque Redondo. On March 
4 some 2,138 more were started from Canby. 

The Carleton-Carson combination had worked well; and 
back at Canby, enabled to send in his report of success, 
Colonel Carson now was entitled to make that postponed 
trip to Santa Fe. Accordingly \ve find him leaving Canby, 
with 253 of the Navajo prisoners, the last week of January 
(following his report), and arriving at Los Pinos, near pres- 
ent Peralta, on the Rio Grande, south of Albuquerque, early 
in February. Here he turned the charges over to Lieuten- 
ant George H. Pettis (now of K Company, First California 
Infantry) who on the 8th set out for the Bosque Redondo. 

The colonel arrived at Santa Fe, for conference with 
General Carleton. And after an eighteen-day s march, 
across country, the lieutenant arrived at Fort Sumner with 
one more Indian than he had receipted for! 

Although, as in the case of the Mescaleros, outlaw bands 
of Navajos continued to vex both soldiers and citizens, the 
Navajo campaign was considered to have accomplished its 
purpose. And while warning the post commanders that the 
operations in the field were not to be discontinued, a post- 
script was added, enjoining caution lest refugees be mis- 
taken for hostiles; and on February 27 the outgoing mail 
for Washington bore the letter, from Carleton to the 
adjutant general : 

What with the Navajos I have captured and those who 
have surrendered we have now over three thousand, and will, 
without doubt, soon have the whole tribe. I do not believe they 
number now much over five thousand all told. You have doubt- 
less seen the last of the Navajo war a war that has been 
continued with but few intermissions for one hundred and 
eighty years, and which, during that time, has been marked 


by every shade of atrocity, brutality, and ferocity which can be 
imagined or which can be found in the annals of conflict 

between our own and the aboriginal race. 

#*## ******** 

I beg to congratulate you and the country at large on the 
prospect that this formidable band of robbers and murderers 
have at last been made to succumb. To Colonel Christopher 
Carson, first cavalry New Mexico volunteers, Captain Asa B. 
Carey, United States army, and the officers and men who have 
served in the Navajo campaign, the credit for these successes 
is mainly due. The untiring labors of Major John C. McFer- 
ran, United States army, the chief quartermaster of the depart- 
ment, who has kept the troops in that distant region supplied 
in spite of the most discouraging obstacles and difficulties 
not the least of these the sudden dashes upon trains and herds 
in so long a line of communication deserves the especial 
notice of the War Department. 


COLONEL CARSON arrived in Santa Fe after his 
Navajo campaign about February 10. His command- 
ing 1 general had already written to Washington : " I respect- 
fully request the government will favorably notice that 
officer, and give him a substantial reward for this crowning 
act in a long life spent in various capacities in the service 
of his country in fighting the savages among the fastnesses 
of the Rocky Mountains." 

Very likely Carson was granted a thirty-day respite 
from field duty, but by March 16 he was again being ad- 
dressed through Captain Carey, at Fort Canby, and evi- 
dently he had resumed his post as " commanding Navajo 

Within another fortnight, on April i, the indefatigable 
General Carleton, expressing the belief that the Navajo grist 
has been taken to the mill, announced that he should attend 
to the Apaches of the Gila. By dispatch of April 17 he 
ventured the hope : 

It is very fortunate that the Navajo war is at that point 
toward a final ending as to give but little further uneasiness. 
If, by the help of Providence, we can have the same fortune 
in our demonstrations against the Apaches of Arizona, the 
great drain upon the treasury, which has been kept up by these 
Indian wars, will forever cease. 

In the far East the fortunes of the Confederacy were now 
on the wane. Gettysburg had been fought, Vicksburg had 
fallen. But few of the operations of Grant and Sherman, 



Lee and Johnston, and those other " hard and fast fighters/' 
appear to have affected the surface of events in New Mexico 
and Arizona, where Carleton and Carson, Delgadito, Coch- 
ise, and Manuelito, had their hands full with internal affairs. 
Meantime, stung by white aggression upon their hunting 
grounds, the Cheyenne and Arapaho of the Great American 
Desert had risen in the north and the proud Sioux was on 
the warpath. From panicky Denver to ravaged Minne- 
sota reached a broad trail of blood and plunder. 

With the Carleton campaign against the Apaches in Ari- 
zona we have little to do. By dispatch of April i, 1864, 
Colonel Carson at Fort Canby was asked to send out a picked 
force of 100 men, for fifty days, against marauding Apache 
bands in the Mogollon Mountains, south at the head of the 
Rio Pueblo Colorado. He did not accompany them, him- 
self. The trail no longer had its former attraction for him. 
Now at fifty-four he was well content to rest upon his hon- 
ors, wrung by almost forty years of incessant activity amid 
all the perils known to the western wilderness. Therefore 
April 24, General Carleton transmits to Washington this 
report : 

1st. A copy of an official letter from Colonel Christopher 
Carson, ist cavalry New Mexico volunteers, dated the loth 
instant. In this letter the colonel expresses his conviction that 
we have not yet got one-half of the tribe of Navajoes. In this, 
from all I can learn, I think the colonel overestimates the 
number of those not come in. In my belief the Ricos not yet 
surrendered, but who, it is said, will soon come in, do not 
number over two thousand. We have now, in round numbers, 
six thousand, which would make the whole number of the 
nation to be eight thousand a full estimate, I think. See in 
this letter what Colonel Carson says of the " wisdom " dis- 
played in moving these Indians. I use the word wisdom with- 
out any reference to myself, but merely to contrast it against 
the utter folly of any measure looking toward putting the 
Navajoes on a reservation in the Navajo country. 

2d. An official copy of a private letter from Colonel Carson, 


in which he speaks more fully of the propriety of removing the 
Indians, and of his desire to be at some post where he can 
have his family with him. Colonel Carson has labored hard, 
and is deserving of some respite. I sincerely trust the War 
Department will recognize his services in some substantial 

After some detail work, Carson is next sent to Fort Sum- 
ner and the Bosque Redondo, in pursuance of a project out- 
lined by letter of March 12 from General Carleton to the 
adjutant general at Washington, saying that when the ricos, 
or wealthy refugees from the Navajos, have been persuaded 
from their canon home, " Colonel Carson will himself come 
in from the Navajo country, and go down to the Bosque 
Redondo to give the Indians the counsel they so much need 
just at this time as to how to start their farms and to com- 
mence their new mode of life." 

So Carson reports on July n that he has arrived; that 
conditions there among both Apaches and Navajos are 
favorable; that the captives number 6,309, and that soon 
this total will be increased, by prisoners on the way, to 
7>353- The great majority of the captive Indians, of 
course, are Navajos, marched hither under soldier escort. 
Of them, General Carleton speaks well: 

The exodus of this whole people from the land of their 
fathers is not only an interesting but a touching sight. They 
have fought us gallantly for years on years; they have de- 
fended their mountains and their stupendous canons with a 
heroism which any people might be proud to emulate; but 
when, at length, they found it was their destiny too, as it had 
been that of their brethren, tribe after tribe, away back toward 
the rising of the sun, to give way to the insatiable progress of 
our race, they threw down their arms, and, as brave men en- 
titled to our admiration and respect, have come to us with 
confidence in our magnanimity, and feeling that we are too 
powerful and too just a people to repay that confidence with 
meanness or neglect feeling that for having sacrificed to 


us their beautiful country, their homes, the associations of their 
lives, the scenes rendered classic in their traditions, we will 
not dole out to them a miser's pittance in return for what they 
know to be and what we know to be a princely realm. 

But the Bosque Redondo was doomed as might be 
expected of any policy of concentration, no matter how well 
intended. To be sure, an acequia seven miles long was 
opened, and some 1,500 acres of land were planted to grain, 
squash, and other produce. Then the army worm and corn 
worm .came, and hail and frost, while ploughs and shovels, 
blankets and clothing, did not come. Besides the " acts of 
God," there were the defects of man : antipathy of Apache 
and Navajo, who were hereditary enemies, and the curse of 
unprincipled whites. Therefore the Bosque Redondo reser- 
vation scheme was doomed, and Kit Carson, although one 
of its firm supporters, did not linger to attend upon its death 

The Comanches have, within a few days, killed five Ameri- 
cans at lower Cimarron Springs, and have run off cattle from 
a train of five wagons belonging to Mr. Allison, of this city. 
* * * Will two hundred Apaches and Navajos go with 
troops to fight Comanches in case of serious trouble with the 
latter Indians? 

Thus to Acting Superintendent Carson at the Bosque 
Redondo wrote General Carleton, August 15. The query 
was portentous. 

Portentous also were the orders which were issued within 
the same week, that the completion of Fort Bascom, on the 
Canadian River in eastern New Mexico, at the border of the 
Comanche country, should be pushed through, and that Cap- 
tain Bergman of the First New Mexican Cavalry and Major 
Joseph Updegraff, commanding Fort Marcy (Santa Fe) 
should cooperate with outposts protecting the Santa Fe 
Trail. For the Kiowas and Comanches, working together, 
as usual were emulating the feats of Cheyenne, Arapaho, 
Sioux, and Apache, and were pillaging the frontier from 


central Kansas almost to Santa Fe. The interruption of 
traffic, civil and military, along the Santa Fe Trail, when 
such traffic was necessary to the struggling Southwest, stung 
afresh the doughty Carleton; stung him the keener because 
it delayed supplies which were the very life of the Bosque 

He was not a man who minced matters. He directed the 
commanding officer at Fort Bascom to inform the Kiowas 
and Comanches, visiting there under flag of truce, that 
"their hearts are bad," that "they talk with a forked 
tongue," that " we put no confidence in what they say," and 
that " we regard them not as friends." He promptly took 
issue with Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Matthew 
Steck, who would have questioned the guilt of these notori- 
ous bandits, and declared to the superintendent : " I should 
be derelict of my duty if I should refrain from making at 
least an attempt to avenge our slaughtered and plundered 
citizens." And he ordered Kit Carson into the field. 

[General Orders No. 32.] 

SANTA FE, N. M., October 22, 1864. 

An expedition will be organized, without delay, to move 
against the Kiowa and Comanche Indians, who, during the last 
summer, attacked trains on the roads leading from New 
Mexico to the States. This expedition is designed to co-oper- 
ate with one moving from near Fort Larned, under the 
command of Major General Blunt, with a view to the punish- 
ment of the same Indians. Its organization will be as follows : 
Colonel Christopher Carson, ist cavalry New Mexico volun- 
teers, commanding. 
Lieutenant Colonel Francisco P. Abreii, 1st infantry New 

Mexico volunteers, to command the infantry. 
Major William McCleave, 1st cavalry California volunteers, 

to command the cavalry. 

First Lieutenant Benjamin Taylor, Jr., United States 5th 
infantry, acting assistant quartermaster and acting 
commissary of subsistence. 


Assistant Surgeon George S. Courtright, United States volun- 

Paptain Birney's company, mounted 42 

Lieutenant Heath, with all of Johnson's men now at Fort 

Union and at Fort Bascom 39 

Captain Witham's cavalry, now en route to Fort Union . . 66 
Captain Fritz, with thirty of the best cavalry from Fort 

Sumner, New Mexico 30 

Captain Deiis' company at Fort Bascom 69 

Lieutenant Edmiston, with the effective men of company 

A, ist veteran infantry California volunteers 62 

Lieutenant Pettis, with all the effective men of company 
K, ist infantry California volunteers, with two moun- 
tain howitzers 45 

Total, say 353 

To these will be added, of Ute Indians and Jicarilla Apache 
Indians, say 100. These will proceed to Fort Bascom, New 
Mexico, direct from Mr. Maxwell's ranche, on the Cimarron, 
and there join the troops. 

Captain Marion's company C and Captain Baca's company 
E, ist cavalry New Mexico volunteers, and Captain Berg- 
mann's men, now on the plains, will garrison Fort Bascom 
until further orders. All these troops will concentrate at once 
at Fort Bascom, and have that post as their base of operations, 
and thence commence the movement against the Kiowas and 
Comanches. As the season is now getting late, every moment 
becomes more and more precious. Every officer and soldier 
must therefore do his utmost, not only to take the field 
promptly, but to accomplish all that can be accomplished in 
punishing these treacherous savages before the winter fairly 
sets in. They have wantonly and brutally murdered our 
people without cause, and robbed them of their property ; and 
it is not proposed that they shall talk and smoke and patch up 
a peace until they have, if possible, been punished for the 
atrocities they have already committed. To permit them to 
do this would be to invite further hostile acts from them as 
soon as the spring opens and our citizens once more embark 
in their long journeys across the plains. 

The various chiefs of the staff departments will furnish 


Colonel Carson with the means of transportation and supplies 
necessary to give this order practical effect. 
By command of Brigadier General Carleton : 

Assistant Adjutant General. 

Between these decisive general orders and that first inti- 
mation of August 15, considerable correspondence and travel 
of a preparatory nature had intervened. This referred 
largely to those allies, the Utes and Jicarilla Apaches, Colo- 
nel Carson's proteges. By letter of September 18 Colonel 
Carson, again at Taos, was instructed to proceed to " Mr. 
Maxwell's place on the Little Cimarron," and there enlist, 
for expedition against the Kiowas and Comanches, 200 
Utes terms of payment in rations and plunder to be speci- 
fied. With these Maxwell Agency Indians were to be 
combined, if possible, Apaches and Navajos from the 
Bosque Redondo. 

The Utes and Jicarillas of the agency at Maxwell's proved 
susceptible to negotiations; they would be pleased to have 
the Mescalero Apaches from the Bosque join with them, but 
they objected to the Navajos; they would appreciate being 
favored, when upon the march, with sugar and coffee, like 
other soldiers; and desired that during their absence their 
families be fed, at Maxwell's, by daily rations of meat and 
flour. In consideration thereof, by letters of October 10 
and 1 8 Carson, from Maxwell's, reported that he could get 
about TOO Indians. He asked for them an equipment of 
100 rifles with ammunition, 120 blankets and shirts, and for 
Chief Ka-ni-at-ze one extra horse. For himself he re- 
quested two pieces of artillery and at least 300 mounted 
troops. 200 

General Carleton agreed to the arms, the blankets and' 
shirts, even to the much-prized coffee and sugar, and prob- 
ably to the " extra horse " for old Ka-ni-at-ze ; but he dele- 
gated to the Indian department the issuance of those family 


rations. " I believe you will have big luck," he encouraged 
Colonel Carson; and "If the Utes will not agree to 
remain in the field forty-five days they had better not go." 
About the same time (October 22), he sent a dispatch to 
Major General James G. Blunt, who also was organizing 
an expedition, out of Fort Larned of Kansas, against these 
same allied tribes: 

This is to inform you that a report has reached me, coming 
through Mexicans, that the Kiowas and Comanches are now 
encamped on a creek called Palo Duro, some two hundred 
miles in a northeasterly direction from the mouth of Utah 
creek, on the Canadian or Colorado river, east of Fort Union, 
New Mexico. This would make them about, say, two hun- 
dred miles south of Fort Larned, or southwardly from that 

I shall, within ten days, send a force of three hundred vol- 
unteer troops, two hundred mounted and one hundred on foot, 
with two mountain howitzers, and, say, one hundred Ute and 
Apache Indians, i. e., four hundred in all, under Colonel Chris- 
topher Carson, to attack the Kiowas and Comanches. This 
force will move down the Colorado to within fifteen miles of 
Ute creek and there doubtless take a road running northeast 
toward the States, which road is said to come into the Arkansas 
from the southwest near the mouth of Walnut creek. 

I hope you may be able to time your movements so as to 
reach the Indians on the Palo Duro or near there at the same 
moment with Colonel Carson, so that a blow may be struck 
which those two treacherous tribes will remember. 

With true Indian shrewdness the Navajos of the Bosque 
Redondo declined the proffered warpath, reminding the 
authorities, " We have been told that we should work, not 
fight ! " The author finds no record that any of the Mes- 
calero Apaches of the Bosque went. The Utes and the 
Jicarillas of the Maxwell Agency went, following their 
Father Kit. They went and they bargained to the last, 
influencing Carson himself. 


CIMARRON, N. MEX., November 3, 1864. 

Santa Fe, N. Mex. 

I leave this morning with sixty-five Utes and Jicarilla 
Apache Indians, after having had the greatest kind of trouble 
to get them started, and had to tell them that I would write to 
you recommending to your favorable consideration that the 
families of these Indians going with me should be fed one 
pound and a half of meat and flour daily by Mr. L. B. Maxwell 
until they return from the campaign. The snow has been so 
deep for the last four days that I was doubtful of any of them 
to go with me. I therefore most respectfully solicit you to 
send to Mr. L. B. Maxwell an order to issue the above rations, 
and also to instruct the chief commissary to pay for said sub- 
sistence. I deem it a good policy to do it, as we may need 
their services in future time. 

I am, General, very respectfully, 

Your obedient servant, 

Colonel ist N. M. Vols., Commanding. 

P. S. Since my writing seventeen more Indians have joined 
my command, making in all eighty-two. All of them have 
families, which are suffering very much, and would be very 
glad if you approve the subsistence to be issued by L. B. Max- 
well as heretofore mentioned in the within. 

Whether the general succeeded in persuading the Indian 
department of the territory, with which he was at outs, to 
ration the families of these red children whose enlistment it 
had opposed, I do not know ; but I doubt it Superintendent 
Steck likely enough seized upon the opportunity to let Gen- 
eral Carleton shoulder (as he had expressed himself willing 
to do) " all the consequences which may follow my acts/' 
He who sent the men upon the warpath must provide for 
the women at home. 

On November 10, Colonel Carson and his Indians arrived 
at Fort Bascom where he " found all the companies com- 
posing the expedition in readiness to move at any moment." 


On the 1 2th he set out from Bascom " with * * * a 
total of fourteen officers and 321 enlisted men and seventy- 
five Indians," all subsisted for forty-five days, or until the 
first of the year. The quartermaster supplies were trans- 
ported in twenty-seven wagons and an ambulance. It was 
the Carson plan to establish a base at Adobe Walls, and 
thence operate with pack animals. Thus equipped with in- 
fantry, cavalry, artillery, scouts, rations, and, best of all, a 
free hand, Carson the experienced, at the head of experi- 
enced fighters, well might anticipate the success expected of 
him by General Carleton : 

As you see, I have given you more men than you asked for, 
because it is my desire that you give those Indians, especially 
the Kiowas, a severe drubbing. * * * I do not wish to 
embarrass you with minute instructions. You know where to 
find the Indians; you know what atrocities they have com- 
mitted; you know how to punish them. The means and men 
are placed at your disposal to do it, and now all the rest is left 
with you. 

The allied Kiowas and Comanches with a number of 
Kiowa Apaches and of Arapahos, totalling between 4,000 
and 5,000 adults, were in winter camp about 200 miles down 
the Canadian from Fort Bascom, in the rich bottoms well 
supplied with wood and game, along the river in present 
Hutchinson County, of the Texas Panhandle. The princi- 
pal villages w r ere located on either side, east and west, of 
the old Bent's trading posts of Adobe Walls. 

A portion of the command being afoot, and the wheels of 
the gun-carriages being small, advance was slow. More- 
over, the line of march was projected through a country lit- 
tle known, seldom traversed, infested with the most dreaded 
Indians of the plains, and Carson was too wary a frontiers- 
man unduly to expose his column. Therefore the march 
was by easy stages, with the certainty of finding the foe 
in winter camp at the end. 


According to the account by Lieutenant George H. Pettis, 
commanding the twelve-pounder howitzer detachment, on 
the third or fourth day out of Bascom was passed the place 
where, in the fall of 1849, the troops led by Carson and 
Leroux had surprised the Apache captors of the wretched 
Mrs. White. 

Carson explained to us how the attack was made, the posi- 
tion of the Indian camp, where the bodies were found, etc., 
in his usual graphic manner. 201 

The march was further enlivened by the Ute and Apache 
scouts, who 

every night after making camp, being now on the warpath, 
indulged in their war dance, which, although new to most of 
us, became almost intolerable, it being kept up each night 
until nearly daybreak, and until we became accustomed to their 
groans and bowlings incident to the dance, it was impossible 
to sleep. Each morning of our march, two of our Indians 
would be sent ahead several hours before we started, who 
would return to camp at night and report. 

Thus with advance scouts and with flankers, Colonel Car- 
son proceeded cautiously, twelve days (delayed two, how- 
ever, by snowstorms), along the old trader road, upon the 
north of the Canadian, between Albuquerque, or Santa Fe, 
and Arkansas. On the afternoon of November 24, after a 
march of eighteen miles, camp was made at Mule Spring, 
or Arroya de la Mula, about thirty miles from Adobe 
Walls, lying east. Narrates Lieutenant Pettis: 

We had arrived at Mule Spring early in the afternoon ; had 
performed our usual camp duties, and as the sun was about 
setting, many of us being at supper, we were surprised to 
see our Indians, who were lying around the camp, some gamb- 
ling, some sleeping, and others waiting for something to eat 
from the soldiers' mess, spring to their feet, as if one man, 
and gaze intently to the eastward, talking in their own language 


quite excitedly. Upon questioning Colonel Carson, why this 
tumult among our Indians, he informed us that the two scouts 
that he had dispatched that morning, had found the Comanches, 
and were now returning to report the particulars. Although 
the returning scouts were at least two miles distant, and, 
mounted on their ponies, were hardly discernible, yet the 
quick, sharp eye of our Indians made them out without diffi- 
culty. I must confess that I failed to see them, until an Indian 
pointed out to me, away off on the hill side, two mere specks 
moving towards our camp. And what was more remarkable, 
they had, by a single shout, in that rarefied, electrical atmos- 
phere, conveyed the intelligence that they had found the enemy, 
and that work was to be done. But a short time elapsed before 
the two scouts arrived, and rode leisurely through camp, with- 
out answering any questions or giving any information, until 
they had found the Colonel, when they reported that they 
had, about ten miles in advance, found indications that a large 
body of Indians had moved that morning, with a very large 
herd of horses and cattle, and that we would have no difficulty 
in finding all the Indians that we desired. Carson immediately 
ordered all the cavalry, and the section of mountain howitzers, 
to be ready to move without delay. The Infantry, Company 
A, 1st California Infantry, under command of Colonel Abreii, 
was ordered to remain as escort to the wagon train, which was 
to stay in camp that night, and on the morrow was to move 
on and follow the trail of the command, until they overtook it. 

At dusk Carson, with his mounted force and the battery, 
in all thirteen officers and 246 men, descended from the 
camp into the valley of the Canadian, and found there " tne 
deep-worn, fresh trail of the hostile Indians." Having 
covered fifteen miles by midnight, a halt was made, to wait 
until morning. 

* * * no talking was allowed (the few orders that were 
necessary, were given in a whisper), lighting of pipes and 
smoking was prohibited; each officer and soldier, upon halt- 
ing, only dismounted, and remained holding his horse by the 
bridle rein until morning; and to add to our discomforts a 
heavy frost fell during the night. 


As the first gray streaks of dawn appeared in the eastern 
skies, we mounted our horses, and proceeded on our new- 
found trail. * * * We had been moving but a few 
minutes, when I was informed that Carson wished to see me 
at the head of the column. I urged my horse forward as 
quietly as I could, and reported to him. As I did so, I re- 
marked the funny appearance of his Indians, all of whom were 
mounted in their peculiar manner, with their knees drawn 
up nearly at right angles, and being cold, they were each of 
them enveloped in their buffalo robes, standing- high above 
their heads, and fastened by a belt at their waist. Such a 
sight was ludicrous in the extreme. Carson commenced to 
say to me, in his own quaint way : " I had a dream the night 
before, of being engaged with a large number of Indians ; your 
cannons were firing," at this point of his recital, we heard 
a voice in Spanish, on the opposite side of the river, cry out 
" Bene-aca," " Bene-aca," " Come here," " Come here." We 
knew that we had found a picket of the enemy. Carson 
hastily ordered Major McCleave, and B Company First Cali- 
fornia Cavalry, with one of the New Mexico detachments, to 
cross the river, as it was easily forded. Our Indians, who had 
been riding leisurely along, at the first cry charged into a 
clump of chapparel which was near by, and in a moment, as 
it seemed, came riding out again, completely divested of buffalo 
robes and all their clothing, with their bodies covered with 
war paint, and war feathers in abundance, and giving a war- 
whoop they dashed wildly into the river towards the enemy. 
I was wondering at the wonderful transformation of our 
Indians, entirely forgetful of the enemy, when Carson gave 
orders for us to move down on our side of the river, he being 
satisfied that the village would be found within a short 

At the sound of shots and the sight of three Indian pick- 
ets or pony guards racing away for their camp, Colonel 
Carson urged his main force to the attack before the village 
should be prepared; with Lieutenant Heath's company of 
First California Cavalry, he stayed as escort to the battery. 
Evidently upon the battery he placed chief dependence ; and 
this dependence was justified. 


The cavalry disappeared in the cottonwood clumps and the 
tall grass covering the river bottoms; the battery hastened 
after, its carriages constantly impeded and its dismounted 
cannoneers panting in the rear. Stolen cattle were passed ; 
and presently were to be seen the scouts already enjoying 
the fruits of their labors, in shape of the enemy's pony herds, 
each fortunate Ute and Jicarilla having collected from 
twenty to fifty animals, as individual property. The scouts 
were rapidly changing riding pads, and, upon new mounts, 
were scurrying again for the fight. 

Three or four miles had been covered by the laboring bat- 
tery, and the firing in the front had receded, indicating that 
the enemy was driven back. About nine o'clock Colonel 
Carson, still with the battery, saw the first one of the Indian 
villages, five miles ahead, just beyond a long low bluff ex- 
tending into the valley. The tipis, of whitened buffalo 
hides, deceived the battery and escort into thinking them 
to be Sibley army tents. Carson, knowing better, explained. 

The village, of some 170 tipis, had been abandoned 
its warriors put to retreat, its women and children driven to 
the brush, by the precipitate charge of the Carson advance. 
A short distance down the river the warriors had rallied, to 
make a stand, and were stubbornly contesting the invaders. 
As says the Carson official report : " They made several 
severe charges on Major McCleave's command before my 
arrival with the artillery and the other companies, but were 
gallantly repulsed." 

The breath of conflict in his nostrils, Colonel Carson re- 
marked to Lieutenant Pettis of the battery that if the fight 
was not over by the time they arrived it soon would be, after 
which the lodges could be burned. " At the same time," 
relates Pettis, 

he threw his heavy military overcoat on a bush alongside the 
road, and advised me to do the same, as we should return in 
a few minutes and get them again. I did not do so, however. 


Some of my men wished to take their overcoats and blankets 
from the guns and leave them, but I would not allow them to 
do so, and for once, my judgment was better than Carson's, 
for he never saw that coat of his again, while my own and 
those of my men did good service, afterward. But as we 
pushed on, the firing seemed no nearer, until after we had 
made about four miles from the village, when we saw our 
men, dismounted and deployed as skirmishers, with their horses 
corralled in an old, deserted, adobe building, known by all 
frontiersmen as the Adobe Walls. When we were within 
about a thousand yards of this point, Carson, with Lieutenant 
Heath and his detachment, put spurs to their horses and 
charged forward to join in the fray. My men seemed to get 
new life, and forgot all their fatigues, at the prospect of going 
into action, and but a few minutes elapsed before we came into 
the center of the field at a gallop, and touching my cap to 
Carson, I received from him the following order : " Pettis, 
throw a few shell into that crowd over thar." The next 
moment, " Battery, halt ! action right load with shell 
LOAD! " was ordered. 

It was now near ten o'clock in the morning, the sky was not 
obscured by a single cloud, and the sun was shining in all its 
brightness. Within a hundred yards of the corralled horses 
in the Adobe Walls, was a small symmetrical conical hill of 
twenty-five or thirty feet elevation, while in all directions ex- 
tended a level plain. Carson, McCleave, and a few other 
officers, occupied the summit, when the battery arrived and 
took position nearly on the top. Our cavalry was dismounted 
and deployed as skirmishers in advance, lying in tall grass, and 
firing an occasional shot at the enemy. Our Indians, mounted 
and covered with paint and feathers, were charging back- 
wards and forwards and shouting their war cry, and in their 
front were about two hundred Comanches and Kiowas, 
equipped as they themselves were, charging in the same man- 
ner, with their bodies thrown over the sides of their horses, 
at a full run, and shooting occasionally under their horses' 
necks; while gathered just beyond them twelve or fourteen 
hundred, with a dozen or more chiefs riding up and down 
their line haranguing them, seemed to be preparing for a des- 
perate charge on our forces. Surgeon Courtright had prepared 
a corner of the Adobe Walls for a hospital, and was busy, 
with his assistants, in attending to the wants of half a dozen 


or more wounded. Fortunately, the Adobe Walls were high 
enough to protect all our horses from the enemy's rifles, and 
afford ample protection to our wounded. Within a mile of us, 
beyond the enemy, in full and complete view, was a Comanche 
village of over five hundred lodges, which, with the village 
that we had captured, made about seven hundred lodges, which 
allowing two fighting Indians to a lodge, which is the rule 
on the frontier, would give us fourteen hundred warriors in 
the field before us. 

This was the prospect when the battery came on the ground. 
A finer sight I never saw before, and probably shall never 
see again. 

The Indians seemed to be astonished when the pieces 
came up at a gallop and were being unlimbered. The pieces 
were loaded in a few seconds after the order was given, and 
were sighted by the gunners, when the command " Number 
one Fire ! " was given, followed quickly by " Number two 
Fire ! " At the first discharge, every one of the enemy, 
those that were charging backwards and forwards on their 
horses but a moment before as well as those that were stand- 
ing in line, rose high in their stirrups and gazed, for a single 
moment, with astonishment, then guiding their horses' heads 
away from us, and giving one concerted, prolonged yell, they 
started on a dead run for their village. In fact when the 
fourth shot was fired there was not a single enemy within 
the extreme range of the howitzers. 

The artillery having given the white force the morale 
(that potent military expedient) over the astonished reds, 
Colonel Carson might deem the combat decided. He de- 
clared that the Indians would not make another stand ; and 
ordered his command to unsaddle, unharness, to water and 
to stake the horses, and to eat breakfast. After breakfast 
he purposed moving upon the villages farther down river, 
or, as the Pettis account states, returning to destroy the 
village already abandoned. 

Scarcely had the men eaten their haversack rations of raw 
bacon and hard-tack, when, while they yet were boisterously 
relating adventures, 


looking through my glass (reports Carson) I discovered a 
large force of Indians advancing from another village about 
three miles east of Adobe fort. In this village there were at 
least 350 lodges. I immediately ordered the command to saddle 
and the companies to take position. In a short time I found 
myself surrounded by at least 1,000 Indian warriors mounted 
on first-class horses. They repeatedly charged my command 
from different points, but were invariably repulsed with great 

The battle, renewed, lasted throughout the afternoon. 
By their customary rapid movements and by open order the 
Kiowas and allies avoided the howitzer shells, so formidable 
in their strange explosions. One shell passed through a 
horse being ridden at full speed by a Comanche. Down 
pitched the horse, sending his painted master twenty feet 
through the air, sprawling and senseless. Instantly two 
other warriors raced for him, and from their saddles seiz- 
ing him, each by an arm, amid a shower of rifle balls dragged 
him to safety. Lieutenant Pettis narrates : 

Quite a number of the enemy acted as skirmishers, being 
dismounted and hid in the tall grass in our front, and made 
it hot for most of us by their excellent markmanship, while 
quite the larger part of them, mounted and covered with their 
war dresses, charged continually across our front, from right 
to left and vice versa, about two hundred yards from our line 
of skirmishers, yelling like demons, and firing from under the 
necks of their horses at intervals. About two hundred yards 
in rear of their line, all through the fighting at the Adobe 
Walls, was stationed one of the enemy who had a cavalry 
bugle, and during the entire day he would blow the opposite 
call that was used by the officer in our line of skirmishers. For 
instance, when our bugle sounded the " advance," he would 
blow " retreat ; " and when ours sounded the " retreat," he 
would follow with the " advance ; " ours would signal " halt ; " 
he would follow suit. So he kept it up all the day, blowing 
as shrill and clearly as our very best buglers. Carson insisted 
that it was a white man, but I have never received any informa- 
tion to corroborate this opinion. All I know is, that he would 
answer our signals each time they were sounded, to the infinite 


merriment of our men, who would respond with shouts of 
laughter each time he sounded his horn. 202 

The Kiowas, principals in the fight, were under command 
of the elderly chief Dohasan, or Sierrito (Little Mountain). 
Prominent as his aides were Set-imkia (Stumbling-bear), 
and the notorious Set-t'ainte (White Bear), known com- 
monly as Satanta. Among the Apache chiefs was Iron 
Shirt killed at the door of his lodge which he refused to 

According to the Kiowa statement, most of the younger 
men were away on the warpath at the time, having left their 
families in the winter camp in charge of the old chief Dohasan. 
Early one morning some of the men had gone out to look 
for their ponies, when they discovered the enemy creeping up 
to surround them. They dashed back into camp and gave the 
alarm, and the women, who were preparing breakfast, hastily 
gathered up their children and ran, while the men mounted 
their horses to repel the assault. The Ute scouts advanced in 
Indian fashion, riding about and keeping up a constant yell- 
ing to stampede the Kiowa ponies, while the soldiers came 
on behind quietly and in regular order. Stumbling-bear was 
one of the leading warriors in the camp at the time and dis- 
tinguished himself in the defense, killing one soldier and a 
Ute, and then killing or wounding another soldier so that he 
fell from his horse. Another warrior named Set-tadal, " Lean- 
bear," distinguished himself by his bravery in singing the war 
song of his order, the Tontonko, as he advanced to the charge, 
according to his military obligation, which forbade him to save 
himself until he had killed an enemy. Set-t'opte, then a small 
boy, was there also, and describes vividly how he took his 
younger brother by the hand, while his mother carried the 
baby upon her back and another child in her arms, and all 
fled for a place of safety while Stumbling-bear and the warriors 
kept off the attacking party. 203 

So much for the Indian account of the battle. The 
Kiowas, engaged first by that attack upon their village above 


the Adobe Walls, quickly were reinforced by Comanche, 
Apache, and Arapaho. From the Adobe Walls the troops 
could see for a dozen miles down the river; still other vil- 
lages were visible, and each was dispatching its quota of 
vengeful warriors. All the afternoon they were arriving in 
parties of from five to fifty, until by white estimate fully 
3,000 were upon the field. By no means " poor " Indians 
were these ; they were Indians enriched by forays upon cara- 
vans to the north and upon Mexican villages to the south; 
by herds of fat ponies, and by supplies of guns, powder, 
and lead furnished them through the hands of white and 
Mexican traders. 

The Sioux who wiped out Custer's soldiery at the Big 
Horn were not better equipped, and they were not as many. 
The claim by the Carson men that this was the "biggest 
fight," in point of Indian strength, that ever occurred west 
of the Mississippi River, hardly can be gainsaid. 

The Indians were not only gathering upon the field, but 
they were also making circuit and reentering their village 
above, there rescuing their stock and other movable prop- 
erty, and hustling their families away with it. Above the 
village was the Carson wagon train, protected by only 
seventy-five men; this might be cut off and overwhelmed, 
and the main force put in bad plight. 

Although the village ahead was a great temptation, and 
the majority of the officers and men wished to fight through 
and capture it, the cautious Carson decided that with an 
enemy so determined he ought to make sure of his rear. In 
this he was supported by the Ute and Jicarilla chiefs, who 
were witnessing their booty being swiftly disintegrated. 
To the allies (as to any Indian) plunder was a great glory 
of battle. 

Accordingly, " after some hesitation (narrates Lieutenant 
Pettis) and against the wishes of most of his officers, at 
about half -past three Carson gave orders to bring out the 


cavalry horses, and formed a column of fours the number 
four man of each set of fours to lead the other three horses 
- with the mountain howitzers to bring up the rear of the 
column." The dismounted men were deployed in rear and 
on right and left. Then, as reports Colonel Carson : 

In this manner I commenced my march on the village. The 
Indians, seeing my object, again advanced, with the evident 
intention of saving their village and property if possible. The 
Indians charged so repeatedly and with such desperation that 
for some time I had serious doubts for the safety of my rear, 
but the coolness with which they were received by Captain 
Berney's command, and the steady and constant fire poured into 
them, caused them to retire on every occasion with great 

The Indians now finding it impossible to impede my march 
by their repeated charges, set fire to the valley in my rear, 
which was composed of long grass and weeds, and the wind 
being favorable it burned with great fury and caused my rear 
to close up at double quick. I immediately saw their object and 
had the valley fired in my front to facilitate my march. I then 
retired to a piece of elevated ground on my right flank upon 
which the grass was short, and upon which I knew I was out 
of danger from the fire. Here the Indians again advanced 
under cover of the fire and smoke which raged with great fury, 
but my artillery being in position they were again repulsed 
with great slaughter. 

Captain Pettis declares that occasionally, where the smoke 
was thick, the red horsemen would charge until within a few 
yards of the beleaguered line, deliver their fire, and then 
escape. The only scalp of the day was taken in the return 
march, by a Mexican youth who in the morning had been 
bitten by a rattlesnake. In the smoke a Comanche made his 
charge, and by a gust of wind was revealed within twenty 
feet of the boy. Indian and Mexican fired, and the Indian 
fell. While the Indian's friends vainly attempted the rescue 
of the corpse, protected by the rifles of his comrades the 


Mexican snatched the scalp. The fact that this was the 
only scalp taken by the attacking force, bespeaks the furi- 
ous character of the fray. For obvious reasons Colonel 
Carson, on this return march, did not pause to pick up his 
overcoat. " Just before sundown," narrates Lieutenant 

we reached the village, which we found full of Indians trying 
to save their property from destruction. A couple of shells, 
followed by a charge of our men, drove them into the far end 
of it, when the work of destruction commenced, about half 
of the command being detailed to set fire to the lodges, while 

the rest of us were to keep the enemy in check. 

The lodges were found to be full of plunder, including many 
hundreds of finely finished buffalo robes. Every man in the 
command took possession of one or more of these, while the 
balance were consumed in the lodges. There were found 
some white women's clothing, as well as articles of children's 
clothing, and several photographs; also a cavalry sergeant's 
hat, with letter and cross-sabres, cavalry sabre and belts, etc. 

The 176 lodges (or, according to the Carson official 
report, about 150) contained also much dried meat, berries, 
powder, and cooking utensils. Among the women's cloth- 
ing were bonnets and shoes. A buggy, a spring wagon, 
and several sets of harness, reputed to be the proud posses- 
sions of Sierrito himself, were confiscated and burned with 
the other property. 

Two old squaws, attached to the Ute and Jicarilla contin- 
gent, proved their feminine valor by gleefully disclosing to 
the detail firing the lodges four Kiowas, two blind and 
two crippled, who had been cut down with axes by these 
ruthless harpies. 

By the time the village had been destroyed, darkness had 
gathered. Now the column must proceed, in search of the 
wagon train, a measure the more imperative in that the com- 


pany commanders reported their ammunition to be nearly 
expended. Says Pettis: 

The two gun carriages and the two ammunition carts were 
loaded with the most severely wounded, while the slightly 
wounded retained their horses. The march now became the 
most unpleasant part of the day's operations. The wounded 
were suffering severely; the men and horses were completely 
worn out ; the enemy might attack us at any moment, unseen ; 
and the uncertainty of the whereabouts and condition of our 
wagon train, for you will remember that we were now nearly 
two hundred and fifty miles from the nearest habitation, or 
hopes of supply, with the whole Comanche and Kiowa nations 
at our heels all combined to make it anything but a pleasant 
situation to be in. We had been moving slowly on our return 
from the destroyed village about three hours, when we saw 
away off on our right several camp fires burning dimly, and 
approaching cautiously, we were soon welcomed by the chal- 
lenge of a sentinel, in good, clear, ringing Saxon, " Who comes 

The train was intact and unmolested, here encamped 
and prepared for defense, within clear sound of the battle. 
After almost thirty hours of marching and fighting upon a 
few mouth fuls of hard-tack and salt pork or raw bacon the 
column was completely exhausted; even the Indian scouts 
being so spent 

that they adjourned their " scalp dance," and sought the 
comfort of their buffalo robes ; but, as we had been entertained 
every night until the fight by their " war dance," so for twenty- 
one days after, or as long as they remained with us, the 
monotony of the march was diversified by their own peculiar 
" scalp dance," and that with only one scalp, which they had 
purchased of the Mexican soldier whose exploit I have before 

Colonel Carson, apprehending the customary daybreak 
attack, had ordered the reveille to be sounded before dawn. 


The command, rested and refreshed, was soon prepared 
to fight again. The Indians failed to close in; although 
throughout the day, while the soldier camp took its ease, 
they hovered about, on the hills, evincing, however, a proper 
respect for the howitzers. 

After early breakfast, the next morning, the 27th " orders 
were issued," narrates Lieutenant Pettis, " by Colonel Car- 
son to saddle up, and commence the return march, much to 
the surprise and dissatisfaction of all the officers, who de- 
sired to go to the Comanche village that we had been in 
sight of, on the day of the fight." It was said that the 
Indian scouts had advised their colonel to take the Bascom 
Trail ; but he knew as well as they ; he knew that the valley 
of the Canadian was no place in which, with his twenty-five 
wounded men and many wounded animals, to tempt fortune 
farther. Says Carson's official report: 

I now decided that owing to the broken-down condition of 
my cavalry horses and transportation and the Indians having 
fled in all directions with their stock that it was impossible for 
me to chastise them further at present. Therefore, on the 
morning of the 27th, * * * I broke camp and commenced 
my return trip. 

Having safely extricated his column from the dangerous 
territory, he might reveal his private opinion by his dispatch, 
December 16, from camp near Fort Bascom, requesting re- 
inforcements of animals, of 700 mounted men, two six- 
pounder and two twelve-pounder guns, and of supplies for 
four months, with subsistence at Adobe Walls asserting 
that not less than a column of 1,000 men, thus outfitted, 
should go in after these Indians! This was considerable 
for Kit Carson to admit. Later he admitted even more: 
that by token of his retreat the Indians virtually had 
thrashed him. 

The Carleton official announcement of the battle, as 


issued in General Orders No. 4, February 18, 1865, giving a 
resume of the important engagements of the previous year, 

November 25 Colonel Christopher Carson, 1st cavalry New 
Mexico Volunteers, with a command consisting of fourteen 
commissioned officers, three hundred and twenty-one enlisted 
men and seventy-five Indians, Apaches and Utes, attacked a 
Kiowa village of about one hundred and fifty lodges, near the 
Adobe Fort, on the Canadian River, in Texas, and after a 
severe fight compelled the Indians to retreat, with a loss of 
sixty killed and wounded. The village was then destroyed. 
The engagement commenced at 8^ a. m., and lasted without 
intermission until sunset. * * * 

Colonel Carson, in his report, mentions the following officers 
as deserving the highest praise: Major McCleave, Captain 
Fritz and Lieutenant Heath, of the 1st Cavalry California 
Volunteers; Captain Deus and Berney, ist Cavalry New Mex- 
ico Volunteers; Lieutenant Pettis, ist Infantry California 
Volunteers; Lieutenant Edgar, ist Cavalry New Mexico Vol- 
unteers, and Assistant Surgeon George S. Courtright, United 
States Volunteers. 

The Kiowas claimed that in the attack upon the village 
only five, two of them being women and one an aged Apache, 
abandoned by mistake, were killed. Afterwards many more, 
of course, met their death, in the "great slaughter" fre- 
quently referred to in the Carson official report, and finally 
summed as sixty ! In this report Colonel Carson admirably 
" covers up " ; naturally, he could no more confess to any 
misgivings upon the way the battle went, than could the 
Indians confess their losses. 

" I flatter myself that I have taught these Indians a 
severe lesson," asserts the lucky colonel, " and hereafter 
they will be more cautious about how they engage a force 
of civilized troops." In fact, the report is so well bolstered 
that the effort almost conveys a note of brag a note 
usually foreign to anything emanating from Kit Carson. 


The reason for such effort became known to plains circles. 
As Colonel (Brevet Brigadier General) James H. Ford tes- 
tifies, at Fort Lamed, May 31, 1865: 

I understand Kit Carson last winter destroyed an Indian 
village. He had about four hundred men with him, but the 
Indians attacked him as bravely as any men in the world, 
charging up to his lines, and he withdrew his command. * * * 
Carson said if it had not been for his howitzers, few would 
have been left to tell the tale. This I learned from an officer 
who was in the fight. 

George Bent, who, as half-breed son of William Bent, 
was so intimate with plains conditions among both whites 
and Indians, writes, about 1900: 

The Kiowas, Comanches and Apaches were not in one 
village. Little Mountain was head chief of the Kiowas, One- 
Eyed Bear of the Comanches, and Iron Shirt of the Apaches. 
It was the Apache village that Carson struck, and he burned 
part of it. Iron Shirt was killed at the door of his lodge. He 
refused to leave his lodge. His son and wife are still living 
down here (Oklahoma). Kit Carson told me in 1868, three 
weeks before he died, that the Indians whipped him in this 
fight. What saved him was Adobe Fort. When the Indians 
attacked him he ran back to the old fort to make his stand. 
Buckskin Charley, the Ute chief, was with Carson in this fight. 
He says the Kiowas, Comanches and Apaches had Carson 
whipped. He told me they had to fight fire to keep from being 
burned up. I bought a race horse from Kit Carson in 1868, 
the horse he rode during the fight. The Indians followed 
Carson two or three days after leaving Adobe Fort. This 
horse I bought had white spots on each side of his back. Car- 
son told me he had the saddle on the horse four days during 
this fight, and when he took the saddle off the skin came 
with it. 

Captain Pettis also adds to the aftermath of well-endorsed 


In 1867, about three years after the events narrated here, I 
was residing in a little Mexican village on the Rio Grande, 
Los Algodones, about forty-five miles south of Santa Fe, where 
I became acquainted with a couple of Mexicans who were 
trading with the Comanche and Kiowa Indians in the fall of 
1864, and they informed me that they were at the Comanche 
village which we were in sight of, and that when the fight 
commenced they were held as prisoners and kept so for several 
days after we left that neighborhood; that in the village on 
the day of the fight there were seven white women and several 
white children, prisoners; they also informed me where the 
women and children of the village were hid when we passed 
through the Kiowa village on the morning of the fight, and 
that our enemy sustained a loss on that day, of nearly a hun- 
dred killed and between one hundred and one hundred and 
fifty wounded, making a difference with the official report, 
which guessed at thirty killed and thirty wounded. They also 
said that the Indians claimed that if the whites had not had 
with them the two guns that shot twice, referring to the shells 
of the mountain howitzers, they would never have allowed a 
single white man to escape out of the valley of the Canadian, 
and I may say, with becoming modesty, that this was also the 
often expressed opinion of Colonel Carson. 

Even the hero worshiper, Surgeon Peters, speaking of 
this fight, admits that "at Stone Wall (?) near the Red 
River, Carson met his match, being overpowered and badly 

Nevertheless, that Carson took the back trail, and con- 
sidered himself fortunate so to do, deprives him no whit of 
glory. Any leader only less wise than he, would have been 
annihilated despite the howitzers. Bringing in a column, 
with baggage train, more than 200 miles, he actually sur- 
prised the camp of 5,000 watchful Indians, destroyed a 
portion of it, and suffered no Custer or Fetterman defeat. 
As in the case of other army officers in the West, he met a 
red enemy well munitioned by the white government. In 
his dispatch of December 16, following the fight, he com- 



plains that he found tracks of traders' wagons, pointing 
down the river, for the Indian camp; and he had no doubt 
that in this fight his men were killed or wounded by powder 
and ball supplied thus. 

The headquarters encomium is not misplaced: 

This brilliant affair adds another green leaf to the laurel 
wreath which you have so nobly won in the service of your 
country. That you may long be spared to be of still further 
service, is the sincere wish of your obedient servant and friend, 

Brigadier General, Commanding. 



(Courtesy of the Century Magazine) 

H w 


O H 

S 5 



FOR Colonel Christopher Carson ensued another brief 
period of rest. He and his command spent Christmas 
of 1864 at Fort Bascom, waiting for the next movement of 
Kiowas, Comanches, or other hostile tribes. The allied 
tribes of the Canadian country had been staggered by the 
hard, if not altogether decisive, blow so boldly dealt them ; 
and were the more alarmed by the tidings that almost at the 
same time, on November 29, their fellows to the north, the 
Cheyennes and Arapahos of the Arkansas, had met more 
wholesale destruction at the attack of Sand Creek. Indeed 
it would seem that the white chief, Governor Evans of 
Colorado Territory, had spoken truly when he said to the 
Cheyennes and Arapahos: " Now the war with the whites 
is nearly through, and the Great Father will not know what 
to do with all his soldiers, except to send them after the 
Indians on the plains." 204 

Fort Bascom waited in peace; the Carleton supplies for 
the Department of New Mexico came through little 
molested, upon the Santa Fe Trail; Comanche, Kiowa, 
Cheyenne and Arapaho warfare was desultory; and on 
December 26 went forward to Colonel Carson the fresh 
orders that if there was no danger to Fort Bascom his force 
was to be distributed or disbanded, and that he himself 
might proceed to Taos and Ojo Caliente until further orders. 

This he did. The enlistments of the New Mexico Volun- 
teers were rapidly expiring; the three year term of the 
original members of the First Regiment had expired July 
31, 1864. However, the veterans and the recruits were 



retained, as a nucleus still to bear the guidons of the First 
New Mexican Cavalry. Colonel Carson was also entitled 
to resign; his officers were dropping away, to return to 
civil life, and by reason of health and inclination he fain 
would do the same. On the other hand, he was needed and 
appreciated where he was, and that being so, to doff his 
uniform would not have been in keeping with his character. 
From Fort Union, on his way to Taos, he evidently took 
occasion to quiet any misgivings as to his intentions. The 
reply from the generous Carleton must have pleased him. 


SANTA FE V N. M., January 30, 1865. 

Taos, N. M. 

I received your letter from Fort Union, and it gratifies me 
to learn that you will not leave the service while I remain here. 
A great deal of my good fortune in Indian matters here in 
fact nearly all with reference to the Navajos, Mescalero 
Apaches, and Kiowas is due to you, and it affords me pleas- 
ure always to acknowledge the value of your services, 
#*** ******** 

Brigadier General, Commanding. 

Wider recognition came when, by Washington orders 
of March 13, 1865, Colonel Carson was brevetted brigadier 
general of volunteers, for " important services in New 
Mexico, Arizona, and the Indian Territory." 

By the surrender, April 9, of General Lee's Army of 
Northern Virginia, the war in the East was virtually fin- 
ished. The war in the West, apparently the lesser war, 
continued. General Carson had been at his Taos home over 
three months when, May 4, he was notified that he would 
be in charge of a military summer camp, on the Cimarron 
desert cut-off of the Santa Fe Trail, some 300 miles out of 


Santa Fe, for the protection of the trail, and in hopes that 
" you will be able to have a talk with some of the chiefs of 
Cheyennes, Kiowas, and Comanches, and impress them with 
the folly of continuing this bad course." 

Carson made answer on May 6. The formal order was 
dispatched to him May 8: 

[Special Orders No. 15.] 


SANTA FE, N. M., May 7, 1865. 
* * * * ******** 

IV. Colonel Christopher Carson, with Major Albert H. 
Pfeiffer and companies C and L of his regiment and company 
F, first cavalry California Volunteers, will proceed from Fort 
Union, New Mexico, starting on the 2oth instant to Cedar 
Bluffs or Cold Spring, on the Cimarron route to the States, 
where, at or near one of these places, Colonel Carson will 
select and establish a camp to be occupied until the first day 
of November next, unless otherwise ordered from these head- 
quarters. The object of establishing this camp is to have 
troops at that dangerous part of the route, in order to give 
protection to trains passing to and from the States. The de- 
tails as to how this force can best effect that object are left 

entirely with Colonel Carson. 

*** ********* 

By command of Brigadier General Carleton: 

Official. Assistant Adjutant General. 

The letter which accompanied this order again illus- 
trates how thoroughly dependence was placed upon this 
quiet, homely little man. 


I received last evening your note of the 6th instant, 

and enclose herewith the order for your movement. In my 

opinion your consultations and influence with the Indians 


of the plains will stop the war. Be sure and move on the 
appointed day. I have full faith and confidence in your 
judgment and in your energy. 

Nevertheless, the careful Carleton could not forget that 
here he was establishing a plains camp, liable to be quiet, 
monotonous, and under the easy-going Carson of demo- 
'cratic ways and the Major Pfeiffer of social tendencies. 
So, in kindly language he advised: 

To have a fine camp, with ovens; a comfortable place for 
the sick ; good store-rooms ; some defences thrown up to pre- 
vent surprise; pickets established at good points for observa- 
tion; hay cut and hauled to feed of nights or in case the 
Indians crowd you; large and well-armed guards, under an 
officer, with the public animals when herding; promptness in 
getting into the saddle and in moving to help the trains; a 
disposition to move quick, each man with his little bag of 
flour, a little salt and sugar and coffee, and not hampered by 
packs; arms and equipments always in order; tattoo and re- 
veille roll-calls invariably under arms, so that the men shall 
have their arms on the last thing at night and in their hands 
the first thing in the morning; to have an inspection by the 
officers at tattoo and at reveille of the arms, and to see that 
the men are ready to fight, never to let this be omitted; to 
have, if possible, all detachments commanded by an officer, 
to report progress and events from time to time these seem 
to be some of the essential points which, of course, you will 
keep in view. * * * Keep up discipline from the start 
and all the time. After you have established your camp and 
got matters in training, please report in full. 

As far as may be ascertained, no news of importance 
came in from this summer Camp Nichols, where the Cimar- 
ron cuts through the Oklahoma panhandle. Although this 
portion of Oklahoma was, in 1865, an adjunct of the Indian 
Territory, General Carson on June 19 reported his estate 
as being " Camp Nichols, New Mexico." Political lines 
in the Indian West were still a little vague. 


It may be accepted that as* pacifying agent Camp Nichols 
was a success ; but life here was not enviable. The stages 
had ceased running, until after the Indians should be un- 
der control ; there was neither station nor ranch habitation : 
for this was the Cimarron Desert, the most dreaded and 
dangerous portion of the trail. 

Colonel Meline, traversing it in 1866, says: 

Since 1861 it (i. e., the route) has been almost abandoned 
on account of the Indians, and is only just now being resumed. 
This part of the plains, running down further south into 
Texas, * * * still remains almost in its primitive geo- 
graphical seclusion and isolation. Maps have done little or 
nothing for it, and we find it difficult to locate ourselves day 
by day when we halt. 205 

Colonel Meline's reference, a little later in this chapter, 
to the camp, indicates that the occupants did not lead a 
lethargic existence; for, aside from their scouting opera- 
tions, they erected stone quarters. Nevertheless, existence 
could not have been much varied; the bulk of travel was 
along the Arkansas River route to old Bent's Fort, and the 
mountain branch by the Raton Pass and Maxwell's of the 
Cimarron, near Rayado. 

Carleton's activities were being devoted chiefly to herd- 
ing his now restless Navajos. What councils General Car- 
son may have held with the red men assigned to his prov- 
inces we do not know; but before the establishment of his 
Camp Nichols, councils in which he was to have prominent 
part were brewing. 

By resolution of March 3 the Congress of the United 
States really had taken an intelligent step in this Indian 
problem so long delegated to hired help. A joint special 
committee was appointed, composed of three members of 
the Senate, four of the House, for the purpose of " direct- 
ing an inquiry into the condition of the Indian tribes and 


their treatment by civil and* military authorities of the 
United States." 

To Messrs. Doolittle, Foster, and Ross was assigned the 
duty of inquiring into Indian affairs in the State of Kansas, 
the Indian Territory, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. 

To Messrs. Nesmith and Higby the same duty was assigned 
in the States of California, Oregon, and Nevada, and in the 
Territories of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. 

To Messrs. Windom and Hubbard the same duty was as- 
signed in the State of Minnesota and in the Territories of 
Nebraska, Dakota, and upper Montana. 206 

No junketing trips were these. They entailed much labor 
and much discomfort, for " the work was immense, cov- 
ering a continent," and it was carried on before the days 
of Pullman cars and buffet attachments. 

At last it would appear that the western aborigine, sorely 
tossed between the Scylla and Charybdis of military force 
and civil duplicity, was to have his alleged rights and 
wrongs adequately handled. Here in the Southwest were 
enlisted in his favor such authorities as William Bent, the 
trader, and Kit Carson, the fighter, now about to give tes- 
timony direct to the very fountain head of National 

Just when Kit Carson made his deposition at Fort Lyon 
of .Colorado, in reference to the conduct of the war as exem- 
plified by the Sand Creek " Chivington massacre," we may 
not fully determine. Probably it was in June, 1865; he 
must have made a hasty trip down the trail, during the 
founding of Camp Nichols. Here at Lyon he was simply 
among the other experts and alienists summoned to give 
evidence; but appreciation of his intrinsic abilities was 
traveling on. 

The congressional committee performed no wiser act 
than that when they selected him to be mediator-in-chief 


among the tribes of the southwest plains. In congratula- 
tion he is addressed, at Fort Union, by his commanding 
general, who grants him the leave, in a generous measure 
of commendation. 


SANTA FE, N. M., August 6, 1865. 

I had the honor to receive your letter of August 2, 1865, 
enclosing a letter to yourself from the Hon. J. R. Doolittle, 
United States Senate, chairman of the congressional commit- 
tee to inquire into Indian affairs, and also enclosing two 
telegraphic despatches from the Secretary of War to Mr. Doo- 
little, with reference to holding councils with the Indians. Mr. 
Doolittle's letter, and Mr. Stanton's despatches, I herewith 
return for your guidance in your special mission upon the 
plains, made at the request of Mr. Doolittle. Your knowledge 
of what Mr. Doolittle desires and hopes you will be able to 
effect with the Indians of the plains, which knowledge you 
have derived in conversation with that gentleman, precludes 
the necessity of special instructions from me, indeed, in this 
matter, where, as I understand it, the great object to be had 
in view by yourself is to make preliminary arrangements, if 
possible, with the Comanches, Kiowas, and Cheyennes and 
Arapahoes, so that hostilities on their part will cease, and so 
that their chiefs and principal men will meet commissioners 
in council to make a treaty of peace. Your great knowledge 
of the Indians your knowledge of what is desired on the 
part of the government your knowledge of the danger to 
be apprehended that the Indians may believe our overtures 
proceed rather from our fears of them than from a sincere 
desire not to make war upon them on our part, unless they 
compel us to do so your knowledge of how to talk with 
them, so that they may not suffer from any such delusion 
these considerations you understand so much better than my- 
self, that it is unnecessary for me to give you, or attempt to 
give you, any instructions in the case. 
* * * ********* 

I enclose herewith the order for your escort, and for Adju- 
tant Tanfield to join you. That you may have good luck and 


return in health and safety, is the earnest wish of your sincere 

Brigadier General, Commanding. 

That sub-committee to whom was assigned the southwest- 
ern plains territory was working eastward, having been 
at Fort Larned, Kansas, in May, arriving there just in time 
to frustrate a military movement southward into the 
Comanche country, which likely would have started a war 
of two or three years' duration, requiring 10,000 men and 
$3O,ooo,ooo. 207 Such a complication would badly have in- 
terfered with this early Hague Conference. 

Kit Carson, armed with his leave of absence and supplied 
with his escort, proceeded from Fort Union over the trail 
to Fort Lyon, at the upper end of the Big Timbers along 
the Arkansas. Under date of August 19, he reported from 
Fort Lyon. Camp Nichols remained in charge of Major 
Pfeiffer, pursuing the even tenor of its ways, but was to 
terminate within the compass of a year. Colonel Meline, 
en route from Santa Fe to Missouri in August, 1866, says: 

Our camp, yesterday evening, was among the ruins (new 
ruins of a structure not old) of Fort Nicholson a canton- 
ment erected by a few companies of a California and a New 
Mexico cavalry regiment, two years ago, for the protection 
of this route. For a small force, they effected a great deal, 
and put up their quarters, corral, field-work, etc., of stone. 

The remains of the walls, and a grave on the hill, covered 
with a monumental pile of heavy stones to protect it from the 
wolves, and a massive cross of rock, with the name " Barada, 
private, First New Mexico Cavalry," are all that survive their 
labors. 208 

The special commission upon which Kit Carson now 
served was appointed by order of the President, through the 
congressional joint committee, to meet the tribes of the 


Arkansas River country and treat with them. The mili- 
tary commander of the district of the upper Arkansas was 
General John B. Sanborn; the agent for the Kiowa, 
Comanche and Apache bands of the lower Arkansas was 
Colonel Jesse H. Leavenworth. By their joint efforts the 
commission and the Indians came together at Bluff Creek, 
forty miles south of the Little Arkansas River, Kansas. 

Here, October 14, 1865, with the " confederated tribes 
of Arapahoe and Cheyennes of the upper Arkansas River " 
was signed a treaty, the representatives of the United 
States being General Sanborn, Colonel Leavenworth, Special 
Commissioner Kit Carson, William Bent, James Steele, 
and Thomas Murphy. No Indians ever had fairer overtures 
extended them; substantial apologies were proffered for 
the overzealous attack at Sand Creek; the white soldiers 
were strongly censured ; and the privilege of roaming about 
was granted, upon the naive understanding that no camp 
was to be placed within ten miles of a main traveled road ! 

As was customary, a portion of the tribes did not sanction 
the treaty, which (also as customary) led to protests vi et 
armis and viva voce from all concerned, the protests culmi- 
nating in Custer's charge, November 27, 1868, upon Black 
Kettle's camp of Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Apache, 
Comanche, and Sioux, assembled in winter array twelve 
miles long, beside the Washita. 

However, with these subsequent events Kit Carson had 
little to do. The soldiery trained to the minute in actual 
war had come upon the plains, and Sherman, Sheridan, 
Hancock, Custer and their like were there to " make peace " 
in their own effectual way. 

This fall of 1865 was prolific of peace treaties, October 
itself seeing experimental amnesty and rights given to 
Kiowa, Cheyenne, Apache, Comanche, Arapaho and Sioux. 
October 14 witnessed the Carson treaty with the Arapahos 
and Cheyennes; October 17, a treaty with the Arapahos, 


Cheyennes and Apaches; October 18, a treaty with Coman- 
che and Kiowa ; and so forth the texts, with other con- 
temporary texts, numbering almost 400, to be found com- 
piled in the Government " Statutes at Large," and in the 
Indian Affairs " Laws and Treaties." 209 

It must have been while serving upon this special commis- 
sion of the fall of 1865 that Kit Carson proceeded on to 
Fort Leavenworth (as is later related in this chapter) and 
thence visited General Sherman at St. Louis. How much 
farther eastward he went we do not know. General Fre- 
mont was at this time in New York and vicinity, and 
rumors would take General Carson even to Washington 
a trip not unlikely. A photograph or two alleged to date 
hereabouts seems to substantiate the rumors. 

During the first half of 1866 Kit Carson divided his time 
between Taos, where his family stayed when not briefly 
in camp and garrison ; Cimarron, where the Maxwell manor 
house, now approaching its zenith, was always open to 
him ; and Fort Union, where it would appear that he nom- 
inally was in command. He was occasionally on the trail 
elsewhere ; to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, about official 
business; to the mouth of the Purgatory, at the Arkansas, 
where William Bent's ranch was prospering and where, at 
Boggsville, he himself was to locate, sick unto death; no 
doubt to Denver ; and of course incidentally to Mora, where, 
only eighteen miles east from Union, Ceran St. Vrain was 

The author finds no department order assigning Carson 
to command at Fort Union, and any tenure here by him 
must have been of short duration. In July, 1866, Colonel 
Meline, passing through, speaks of Union as being more 
of a military depot than a garrison station. General John 
Wynne Davidson, Second Cavalry, lieutenant with Carson 
at San Pasqual, and hero of the disastrous battle, March, 
1853, with the Jicarillas in the Embuda canon, was com- 


mander of the post in the summer of 1866, and by Colonel 
Meline's reference had been commander for some time. 
Colonel Meline, writing at Santa Fe, under date of August 
n, records: 

The pleasantest episode of my visit here has been the society 
of Kit Carson, with whom I passed three days, I need hardly 
say delightfully. He is one of the few men I ever met who 
can talk long hours of what he has seen, and yet say very little 
about himself. He has to be drawn out. I had many ques- 
tions to ask, and his answers were all marked by great distinct- 
ness of memory, simplicity, candor, and a desire to make some 
one else, rather than himself, the hero of his story. In answer 
to queries concerning Indians, he would frequently reply 
unlike so many I have met who knew all about them "I 
don't know," " I can't say," " I never saw that." 

* * ******** 

He cares but little for a title, and when some one at the 
table apologized for calling him Colonel, instead of General, 

" Oh, call me Kit at once, and be done with it," was his reply. 

* * * # * * * * # * 

General Carson (he is Colonel of the First Regiment New 
Mexican Cavalry, and Brevet Brigadier-General) usually re- 
sides at Taos, but is now in command at Fort Garland. He 
has been married many years to a Mexican lady * * * 
and has a family of three boys and three girls. I find that he 
is beloved and respected by all who know him, and his word is 
looked upon as truth itself. 

The assignment to command at Fort Garland may be ac- 
cepted as a straight compliment to Carson. The volunteer 
rank and file was being mustered out by wholesale a 
final cleaning up. But Major-General John Pope, on tour 
of inspection of his Department of the Missouri, writes on 
August ii from Fort Union to his chief, Major-General 
W. T. Sherman of the Military Division of the Mississippi, 
and now in Denver : 

For the garrison of Fort Garland, by far the most important 
post on the Ute frontier, I have authorized the retention 


until their term of service expires of four companies of New 
Mexican volunteers, to be consolidated from other companies 
of the regiment under the command of Kit Carson, who is 
now the colonel, but who will be reduced to lieutenant colonel. 
I need not say that Carson is the best man in the country 
to control those Indians and to prevent war if it can be done. 
He is personally known and liked by every Indian of the bands 
likely to make trouble, and the men he will retain are perfectly 
familiar with the Indians and the country. * * * Peace 
with these Indians is of all things desirable, and no man is so 
certain to insure it as Kit Carson. 

Fort Garland of Colorado territory, christened in honor 
of the former department commander in New Mexico, was 
built in the spring and summer of 1858 as successor to that 
pioneer post, Fort Massachusetts, nine miles north. To 
the north of the fort, as today, Sierra Blanca lifted its crest, 
third in height and among the most majestic in appearance 
of the peaks of the American Rockies. Taos was about 
eighty miles south. The post was at the eastern verge of 
the great valley known as San Luis Park. 

This was distinctly the country of the Tabeguache or 
Uncompahgre Utes, now restive under the gold-seeking 
white men who persisted in penetrating through the barrier 
ranges to frighten game and spoil trails. The head of the 
Uncompahgres was Ouray (The Arrow), a statesman, 
financier, a Logan, and altogether a shrewd, noble-hearted, 
level-headed so-called savage, fitting cooperator with Kit 

Garland was what might be designated a battalion post ; 
and even at that the garrison usually consisted of only three 
or four companies. The volunteers stationed there were in- 
fantry and cavalry, the remnants of the two First New Mex- 
ican regiments, foot and horse, coalesced by transfer and 
consolidation of August 31, 1866, to form the First Bat- 
talion, Veteran New Mexican Volunteers. General Car- 
son's staff was composed of his close brothers-at-arms, 


Major Albert H. Pfeiffer, Major John Thompson, Captain 
Joseph Birney, Captain Donaciano Montoya, with all of 
whom he had been associated in camp and field, since 1861. 

Life at the post was not arduous. The region roundabout 
is beautiful, with peak and vale, timber and grass. Game 
abounded (to use an expression much abused, but here 
appropriate), and the Trinchera Creek, upon which the 
fort stood, was a reservoir of speckled trout in such num- 
bers that the soldiers scooped them out with blankets. 
Below the post were the Mexican hamlets of San Luis 
de Culebra (only fifteen miles distant), Conejos, Costilla, 
and others ; and north of the post, but well up toward the 
head of the park, was the ranch of one hardy Russell. For 
the park had its population of settlers, even of ranchers, 
to be estimated, Kit Carson himself claimed, at five or six 

Meanwhile, down on the plains " Hell on Wheels," as 
the advancing terminal town of the Union Pacific was styled, 
was being pushed 300 miles into the Great American Desert ; 
and the Atlantic & Pacific had been subsidized, to head for 
California by way of Albuquerque. 

By recollection of Mr. Ferd Meyer, post trader, the 
main duty devolving upon Fort Garland during the Carson 
regime of one year was the pacification of drunken 
Indians. 210 Ouray himself, with several other chiefs who 
had been impressed, through a trip to Washington, in 1862, 
with the number of the white man's soldiery, aided in these 
pacifications. The Uncompahgre Utes made of Fort Gar- 
land, where Father Kit reigned, and of Conejos village, 
where Agent Lafayette Head reigned, their official quarters. 
The principal dangers were from drink, which incited anew 
the feeling of resentment against the prospecting whites, 
and forays by the plains bands, which provoked retaliation. 

Several times Denver " City " (that wonder of the plains, 
claiming in the fall of 1866 to have 7,000 citizens and 250 


new brick and stone houses) reported Fort Garland, Colo- 
rado's frontier post, as besieged by the Utes, even demol- 
ished, Kit Carson and all; but invariably the facts were 
disclosed to be only some alcoholic quarrel, Mexican versus 
Indian, or at most (as instanced by General Rusling) the 
finding of a Ute killed by lightning. 

In September, 1866, Fort Garland entertained distin- 
guished visitors in the persons of General Sherman himself, 
commanding the Military Division of the Mississippi, which 
included the Department of the Missouri; Alexander Cum- 
mings, Governor of Colorado territory; General James 
F. Rusling, of the quartermaster general's department, 
Washington ; and their escorts. 

General Sherman was upon a tour of the frontier posts 
in his division, better to comprehend the Indian question, 
his greatest problem; Governor Cummings accompanied 
him to Garland, in hopes of negotiating a treaty with the 
Utes; General Rusling, now on an inspection trip princi- 
pally of western supply depots, was invited to join the 

One of the most attractive chapters in the written story 
of the mountains and plains of the West is that chapter, 
in General Rusling's journal, descriptive of the Fort Gar- 
land country, Kit Carson, and the Utes. Naturally, much 
interest centered about Carson, to whom General Rusling, 
now meeting him for the first time, became greatly attached. 

We found him in log quarters, rough but comfortable, with 
his Mexican wife and half-breed children around him. We 
had expected to see a small and wiry man, weather-beaten 
and reticent; but met a medium sized, rather stoutish, florid, 
and quite talkative person instead. He certainly bore the 
marks of exposure, but none of the extreme " roughing it," that 
we had anticipated. In age, he seemed to be about forty-five. 
His head was a remarkably good one, with the bumps of 
benevolence and reflection well developed. His eye was mild 
and blue, the very type of good nature, while his voice was 


as soft and sympathetic as a woman's. He impressed you at 
once as a man of rare kindliness and charity, such as a truly 
brave man ought always to be. As simple as a child, but 
brave as a lion, he soon took our hearts by storm, and grew 
upon our regard all the while we were with him. We talked 
and smoked far into the night each evening we spent together, 
and we have no room here for a tithe of what he told us. 
* * * In talking, I observed, that he frequently hesitated 
for the right English word ; but when speaking bastard Spanish 
(Mexican) or Indian, he was as fluent as a native. Both 
Mexican and Indian, however, are largely pantomime, which 
may have helped him along, somewhat. The Utes seemed to 
have the greatest possible confidence in him, and invariably 
called him simply " Kit." Said Sherman, while at Garland, 
" These Red Skins think Kit twice as big a man as me. Why, 
his integrity is simply perfect. They know it, and they would 
believe him and trust him any day before me." And Kit 
returned this confidence, by being their most steadfast and 
unswerving friend. He declared all our Indian troubles were 
caused originally by bad white men, and was terribly severe 
on the barbarities of the Border. He said he was once among 
the Indians for two or three years exclusively, and had seen 
an Indian kill his brother even, for insulting a white man in 
the old times. He protested, that in all the peculiar and 
ingenious outrages for which the Indians had been so much 
abused of late years, they were only imitating or improving 
upon the bad example of wicked white men. His anathemas 
of Col. Chivington, and the Sand Creek massacre of 1864, 
were something fearful to listen to. He pleaded for the Indians, 
as " pore ignorant creatures," whom we were daily dispoiling 
of their hunting grounds and homes, and his denunciations 
of the outrages and wrongs we had heaped upon them were 
sometimes really eloquent. 

Said he, " To think of that dog Chivington, and his hounds, 
up thar at Sand Creek ! Whoever heerd of sich doings among 
Christians! The pore Injuns had our flag flyin' over 'em, 
that same old stars and stripes thar we all love and honor, 
and they 'd bin told down to Denver, that so long as they kept 
that flyin' they 'd be safe. Well, then, here come along that 
durned Chivington and his cusses. They 'd bin out several 
days huntin' hostile Injuns, and could n't find none no whar, 


and if they had, they 'd run from them, you bet ! So they 
just pitched into these friendlies, and massa-creed them 
yes, sir, literally massa-creed them in cold blood, in spite 
of our flag thar women and little children even! Why, 
Senator Foster told me with his own lips (and him and his 
committee investigated this, you know) that that thar d d 
miscreant and his men shot down squaws, and blew the brains 
out of little innocent children even pistoled little babies in 
the arms of their dead mothers, and worse than this ! And ye 
call these civilized men Christians; and the Injuns savages, 
du ye? 

" I tell ye what ; I do n't like a hostile Red Skin any better 
than you du. And when they are hostile, I 've fit 'em fout 
'em as hard as any man. But I never yit drew a bead on a 
squaw or papoose, and I loathe and hate the man who would. 
'Tain't nateral for brave men to kill women and little chil- 
dren, and no one but a coward or a dog would do it. Of 
course, when we white men du sich awful things, why, these 
pore ignorant critters do n't know no better, than to follow 
suit. Pore things ! I 've seen as much of 'em as any white 
man livin', and I can't help but pity 'em. They '11 all soon be 
gone, anyhow." 

Poor Kit ! He has already " gone," himself, to his long 
home. But the Indians had no truer friend, and he would wish 
no prouder epitaph than this. He and Sherman were great 
friends, and evidently had a sincere regard for each other. 
They had known each other in California in '49, when Sher- 
man was a banker there, and Kit only an Indian guide. [Gen- 
eral Rusling here errs, as Sherman and Carson had met at 
Los Angeles in 1847-1848, when both were lieutenants.] In 
'65, when Kit was at Leavenworth, Sherman sent for him to 
come down to St. Louis, and they spent some time together 
very pleasantly. Now Sherman returned his visit, by coming 
to Fort Garland, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. 211 

Of this visit at Fort Garland General Sherman says : 

I stayed with him [Carson] some days, during which we 
had a sort of council with the Ute Indians, of which the Chief 
Ouray was the principal feature, and over whom Carson 
exercised a powerful influence. 


Carson then had his family with him wife and half a 
dozen children, boys and girls as wild and untrained as a brood 
of Mexican mustangs. One day these children ran through 
the room in which we were seated, half clad and boisterous, 
and I inquired, " Kit, what are you doing about your children? " 

He replied : " That is a source of great anxiety ; I myself 
had no education (he could not even write, his wife always 
signing his name to his official reports). I value education 
as much as any man, but I have never had the advantage 
of schools, and now that I am getting old and infirm, I fear 
I have not done right by my children. " 

I explained to him that the Catholic College, at South Bend, 
Indiana, had, for some reason, given me a scholarship for 
twenty years, and that I would divide with him that is let 
him send two of his boys for five years each. He seemed very 
grateful and said he would think of it. 212 

To have the high regard of soldiers such as General 
Sherman and General Rusling, surely bespeaks the sterling 
character of plain, uncultured Carson. 

A preliminary council with the Utes was held by General 
Sherman and Governor Cummings on the afternoon of 
September 21, in the commandant's quarters at the fort. 
Another talk, at which a treaty was essayed, was held, Sep- 
tember 23, by Governor Cummings and Agent Head, with 
the chiefs, on the banks of the Rio Grande about thirty 
miles northwest of the fort. The overtures from the Gov- 
ernment were " interpreted by Kit Carson into Mexican, 
with profuse pantomime, after the Indian fashion, and then 
re-interpreted by Ouray into Ute for the benefit of his red 

Another episode of more than passing interest, to break 
the routine of Fort Garland, was the revolt, in the summer 
of 1867, of Carson's former ally, Kaniatse. This Ute chief, 
for whom an extra horse had been asked, in the Kiowa 
expedition of November, 1864, here three years later ran 
amuck, raiding the cornfields along the Purgatoire, and en- 
countering troops from the foothills post of Fort Stephens. 


Heading toward the San Luis park, he invited Ouray 
and the Uncompahgre Utes to join him. 

Instead of joining him, however, Ouray placed all his people 
under the surveillance of Fort Garland, commanded by Col. 
Carson, and repaired to the Purgatoire to warn the settlers. 
The enemy was met by a small force of Tabaquaches [Tabe- 
guaches], under Shawno [Shavano], one of their chiefs, whom 
Carson sent to bring in Kaneache [Kaniatse], dead or alive. 
The order was obeyed, Kaneache and another hostile leader 
being captured and taken to Fort Union. 213 

Indeed, to Carson and Ouray, working together, did the 
settlers of mountain Colorado and New Mexico owe much. 



IN 1868 

(Photograph by Brady, Washington, March, 1868. Signatures by each 
man. Original loaned by Judge H. P. Bennet of Denver, who was 
clerk to the Commission) 


EPARTMENT returns in the report dated September 
30, 1867, refer to Fort Garland as garrisoned by 
B Company cavalry, C and D companies infantry, New 
Mexican Veterans, still under Lieutenant Colonel (Brevet 
Brigadier General) Christopher Carson, New Mexican 

However, in July General Carson had resigned from the 
service: reason, ill health. 214 The injury of 1860, when 
his horse had dragged him, had developed into an aneurysm 
a ruptured wall of the aorta, or great artery, pressing 
against the trachea at the upper chest. He complained of 
pain in the chest, a tendency to cough, and distress when 
lying flat. The hard campaigns of the 'sixties had told upon 
him heavily. Formerly a fearless, reckless horseman, of 
late he had done his journeying in an army ambulance. 

From Fort Garland he removed his family to Taos, or 
possibly to Boggsville, and later followed, himself. Through 
his wife, whose uncle had been of the Vigil family, he 
had possessed some land in the Vigil and St. Vrain Spanish 
Grant in southern Colorado. This, it would seem, he had 
deeded to the young son of his comrade, Major Pfeiffer. He 
owned other land, in the Taos Valley, and he had clung 
to a few cattle of which the brand was CC on the left 
hip, or cross J (+J) on the left hip. The house and lot 
in Taos were his; and there were horses and carriage, and 
a certain amount of other trail and ranch conveniences and 
chattels. But he had by no means a competence. His life 
had been a roving one, and he was rearing a large family. 



The widow and children of Charles Bent had been much 
in his household ; he had assumed the care of a lad, Nicanor 
Jaramillo, nephew of his wife; and there must not be 
omitted his own children. To be sure, his pay in the army 
had been certain and fairly liberal, and his expenses small ; 
but he was too generous to be a good accumulator. 

Santa Fe, Maxwell's rancho, and Denver City saw him, 
as he pursued various errands ; and in October he practically 
took up quarters at the settlement of Boggsville, near the 
mouth of the " Purgatory " or Las Animas River, in the 
southern plains of Colorado. It was but a few miles down 
the Arkansas from the old stamping ground of Bent's Fort. 
A ranch had been located here by Thomas O. Boggs, nephew 
of Charles Bent, son-in-law of Mrs. Bent, a Santa Fe Trail 
trader out of Missouri and Taos, and one of Carson's inti- 

Mr. John S. Hough, who shared quarters with the Carson 
family, at early Boggsville, writes, of that period: 

In the summer of 1867 we made a settlement on the Purga- 
toire River near its mouth, about two miles from the present 
city of Las Animas, in Bent County, Colorado. Colonel William 
Bent claimed the land between our place and the mouth of 
the river where it enters into the Arkansas. The settlers were 
Thomas O. Boggs and L. A. Allen, who brought in a herd of 
sheep from New Mexico ; my brother-in-law John W. Prowers, 
who had a herd of cattle; William Ritz, who did some farm- 
ing and whose wife was, I think, a niece of Mrs. Carson's; 
myself, wife and children. I brought in a large stock of 
merchandise, having been informed that a new fort was to be 
built near. In the spring of 1868 Carson moved over from 
Taos, bringing his family. Major Pfeiffer, his old friend, 
accompanied him. Tom Boggs had during the previous winter 
put up quite a number of buildings of the Mexican adobe 
variety, on the bank of the Purgatoire (the Las Animas). I 
secured three of the rooms, and Carson the other three, in one 
building or row, until such time as we could erect our own 
houses. My wife was the only American woman in the settle- 


ment, Mrs. Prowers being a Cheyenne, and the three other 
women being Spanish. Carson's health at that time was very 
bad. Not being able to ride about he spent most of his time 
keeping me company, my trading store being only a few feet 
away from our quarters. He and I were born on the same day 
Christmas; which he considered remarkable, and in ref- 
erence to which he was wont to declare but not irreverently, 
that he knew of only three birthdays being on Christmas! 
I of course took an interest in doing everything that I could, 
to be of service to the family, for besides living in the same 
row with them I thought a great deal of them. In fact, we all, 
at Boggsville, were pretty close together, on account of the 
Indian troubles. 215 

Major Pfeiffer and the other personages at the settle- 
ment could see that " the General," as he was affectionately 
called, was in a critical state. He probably consulted medi- 
cal authorities at Santa Fe and Denver, who, however, 
gave him no relief. Surgeon H. R. Tilton, of the army, 
relates : 

I first met him at the house of a mutual friend, not far from 
Fort Lyon, C. T. [this must have been Bent's ranch, or else 
Boggsville] late in the fall of 1867. He had then recently left 
the service of the U. S., having been colonel of a regiment 
of New Mexican volunteers during the War of the Rebellion. 

As I was a successful amateur trapper, he threw off all 
reserve, and greeted me with more than usual warmth, saying, 
" the happiest days of my life were spent in trapping." He 
gave me many practical hints on trapping and hunting. 

He was then complaining of a pain in his chest, the origin 
of which he attributed to a fall received in i86o. 216 

Dr. Tilton, who was Carson's constant adviser in a 
medical capacity, could effect no cure. The aneurysm appar- 
ently had progressed beyond remedy. Carson now was in 
his fifty-eighth year. His malady prevented him from en- 
gaging in active employment; and he was not entitled to a 
pension or invalid half pay. William, his eldest boy, was 


only sixteen. So, with his enforced idleness, his ill health, 
and his dubious prospects, these must have been Kit 
Carson's hardest days. 

Both for diversion and medical treatment he made fre- 
quent trips down to Fort Lyon, about five miles east. Here 
he was welcomed, and found congenial spirits in the army 
company. This, the second Fort Lyon of the Arkansas 
River country, was known as " new " Fort Lyon, in dis- 
tinction from the preceding Fort Lyon, which, originally 
christened Fort Wise, had succeeded to the second Bent's 
Fort buildings, twenty-five or thirty miles down river. 
" New " Fort Lyon had been occupied in June of 1867, 
the immediate occasion for the change being a spring freshet 
which flooded the Fort Lyon at the Big Timbers. 

In February of 1868, by order of the Commissioner of 
Indian Affairs, a delegation of Ute Indians were invited to 
Washington, that they might present their grievances direct, 
and talk over another treaty. In word from Washington, 
Carson was urgently requested to accompany the chiefs 
and escort, that both parties might have the benefit of his 
well-known experience. Moreover, it was felt that his 
presence would inspire the Utes with confidence. 

He hesitated much over attempting the journey; his 
strength was impaired, and Mrs. Carson was soon to be 
confined with another child. Finally he consented, out of 
a sense of civic duty, regard for the welfare of the Indians, 
and a desire to consult eastern specialists regarding his 

The commission escorting the Indians consisted of Gov- 
ernor A. C. Hunt of Colorado (Indian agent ex officio) ; 
Major Lafayette Head, agent of the Uncompahgre Utes; 
Major D. C. Oakes, agent of the Uintah Utes; General 
Carson and Colonel Albert Gallatin Boone, special commis- 
sioners; Uriah M. Curtis, interpreter from the San Luis 
Valley; Hiram P. Bennet, clerk to the commission; and 


W. J. Godfrey and E. H. Kellogg, Denver citizens. The 
Indians were Chief Quray, Capote, Waro, Jack, Sa-wa-ish, 
Su-ru-ipe, Pe-a-ah, An-ko-tash, and two others, represent- 
ing the " Tabaguache, Muache, Capote, Weeminuche, 
Yampa, Grand River and Uintah tribes "of Utes. 

The whole party, except Carson, went from Denver by 
stage to Cheyenne a wide-open town of 10,000 people, 
then the farthest-west railroad terminal ; from it, however, 
the Union Pacific was again about to push still farther 
west. From Cheyenne they rode luxuriously by train to the 
Union Pacific terminal at Omaha, crossed the Missouri by 
ferry, and continued on from Council Bluffs, by the new 
North Western Railroad, to Chicago. 

Carson himself chose for his stage journey the route from 
Fort Lyon to Fort Hays, there to take railroad for St. 
Louis. Here he was joined by Colonel Boone (grandson of 
Daniel Boone, formerly special Indian Agent at the upper 
Arkansas) who likewise, by his years and counsel, was to 
aid the negotiations. 

The photographs of Carson, made during this, his last 
visit to the far East, show him much reduced in flesh, and 
feeble in appearance. To members of the commission he 
complained of a vein in his neck. However, it did not pre- 
vent his having a royal good time. The commission stopped 
at the Washington House ; General Fremont called on Car- 
son, and so did many other notables, both of army and 
civil life. In fact, he was so much lionized that in his 
weakened condition he evinced, for the first time on record, 
a trace of elation and self-importance. When the com- 
mission proposed to have their pictures taken in company 
with the Indians, they were astounded and amused, to hear 
" the General " remark, " with his chin up " (as was related 
to me by a survivor) : " Oh, I guess I won't be in it, this 
time," and to see him rather contrarily stroll away. 

There was some suspicion that having just been photo- 


graphed in company with General Carleton and former 
staff (a group reproduced in this volume), he was too proud 
to sit with civilians. However, the next morning, as if 
ashamed, he sought out his three favorites in his party, to 
proffer in brusque apology : " Boys, let 's us four go out and 
have those pictures ! " 

So they went. He now was the mild, affable Kit of old. 
When the prints had been mounted, it was proposed that 
each man sign his name. " Shall I sign Christopher, or 
just Kit?" queried the General, poising the pen. 

" Kit, by all means ! " they cried. And this of course 
pleased him, as intended. 

With care he wrote his " Kit Carson " a labored scrawl 
which at first had been an imitation, as a child or an Indian 
imitates, but which by this time was known to him in its 
component letters. 217 

The treaty was concluded March 2, and the New Mexico 
and Colorado Utes agreed to remove to a reservation of 
15,120,000 acres, in western Colorado, extending from the 
White River on the north to the Rio de los Pinos on the 

The United States now solemnly agrees that no persons, 
except those herein authorized so to do, and except such officers, 
agents, and employes of the government as may be authorized 
to enter upon Indian reservations in discharge of duties enjoined 
by law, shall ever be permitted to pass over, settle upon, or 
reside in the territory described in this article. 

Thus read the promise ; and it is strange that Kit Carson 
whose forty years' experience had shown him how futile 
were any barriers set by nature or by ethical law against 
the white adventurer, who had witnessed the Great Amer- 
ican Desert spanned to the foothills, and had heard the 
pick in the recesses of the ranges should gravely expect 
to withhold from greed and civilization this one-quarter 

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(Print from original negative presented to the author by Captain George 
H. Pettis, who was on Carson's staff at Adobe Walls) 


of a rich, energetic Territory. As a matter of history, the 
promise was null and void almost from the start. 

The treaty having been concluded, to the satisfaction of 
all, the commission returned to the West, Clerk Bennet only 
remaining, to wait for the confirmation of the articles by 
the Senate. 

Captain Pettis wrote to the author in 1908: 

In March, 1868, I was in Rhode Island on a visit to my old 
home, having been absent fifteen years. While there I heard 
that Carson was at Washington with a number of Ute Indians. 
He visited Philadelphia, and was in. New York when I was 
ready to start back to the " Land of Sunshine." I expected 
to meet him in New York. When I arrived there I found that 
we had passed each other in the night, he being on his way to 
Boston. I did not turn about, but kept on, being anxious to 
get back to my family at Los Algodones, New Mexico. Upon 
leaving the train at Fort Hays, Kansas, we took the stage 
coach for Santa Fe, and one afternoon we drove to the sutler's 
store at new Fort Lyon. Colonel Pfeiffer opened the stage 
door, and recognizing me said : " Well, Pettis, where 's 
Colonel Carson ? " I gave him all the information that I had, 
and he said that they had been expecting him by that coach. 
Now, at this moment he was just up the river at a place called 
La Junta, where his wife was awaiting him. 

In Philadelphia, New York, and Boston the General had 
consulted medical specialists. None had given him much 
hope. In Boston he sat for the last protograph ever taken 
of him. Thence he had returned West by way of Chicago, 
over the North Western Railroad to Council Bluffs, and 
over the new Oregon Trail route of the Union Pacific to 
Cheyenne. The stage from Cheyenne landed him in Denver 
about the end of March. 

Carson was so much exhausted from his long trip that 
he stayed at the Planter's House in Denver for two or three 
days, part of the time being in bed' in his room. His Den- 
ver friends, of course, attended to his comfort. He was 


still suffering from pain in chest and neck ; and he alluded 
also to pain in the legs, which he thought might be due to 
some veins enlarged once in a foot race which he had run 
many years before to escape Blackfeet Indians. While 
East he had caught a severe cold, which added to his troubled 
condition. 218 Having at last recuperated by resting, he 
proceeded by stage to La Junta, above Boggsville, where 
his solicitous wife met him. The time must have been the 
first week of April, 1868. 


NO ONE could fail to note that Kit Carson had come 
home a very ill man. Seeing him shortly after the 
return, Dr. Tilton of Fort Lyon remarked that his disease 

had progressed rapidly; and the tumor pressing on the 
pneumo-gastric nerves and trachea, caused frequent spasms 
of the bronchial tubes which were exceedingly distressing. 219 

It would seem that, as is strangely the case with many 
men and women, when he had apparently earned peace and 
comfort "the General" had fallen into evil days; for 
unexpectedly Mrs. Carson, the younger and stronger, was 
taken from him. Aged but forty-one, she died on April 
23, leaving him with seven children, the last being the new 
babe, only fifteen days old, and named Josefita, for its 

Mrs. Carson ("a very good wife and the best of 
mothers," is her eulogy) was interred in the yard at Boggs- 
ville, about 500 feet from the Carson-Hough quarters. 

The children thus made motherless were William, 
Teresina, Kit, Charles, Rebecca (for Carson's own mother), 
Estella, and Josefita or Josephine; thus are they recorded, 
in line of birth. The eldest, William, was born in 1851, 
and therefore was now scant seventeen. 

So suddenly deprived of his wife of a quarter century, 
who lately had more than ever been his dependence, General 
Carson was much depressed. He survived her just a month. 
However, it is doubtful, if her death much hastened the 
irresistible march of his disease. 



When Mrs. Carson died [related Mrs. Scheurich to the 
author], the General wrote to Mr. Scheurich, my husband, 
that he wished my mother and myself to go to him, as he was 
very sick and his children were so small. So he sent a man 
by the name of Willy Betts on horseback from Boggsville or 
West Las Animas to Taos, as the mail came through only once 
a month in those days. This man made the trip on horse- 
back, and in five days had covered the 300 miles to Taos ; and 
in three days afterward we left Taos. When we got to Boggs- 
ville Mr. Carson had been removed to Fort Lyon. So after 
dinner Mr. Scheurich went down to the fort to see the General. 
He found him very sick. Mr. Boggs came back and told me 
that the General did not want Mr. Scheurich [who was a god- 
father to his children] to leave him, but must stay with him; 
and he sent us word that mother and I should take care of his 
children, but that he was so weak that he could not stand it to 
see us, and to think that they were to be orphans. Mr. 
Scheurich stayed with him until he died, which was in ten 
days. 220 

According to Surgeon Tilton's statement, it was May 14 
when General Carson was removed from his Boggsville 
quarters to Fort Lyon, five miles eastward. He needed 
medical attention so frequently (at the last, declares Mrs. 
Scheurich, every hour) that, as the Arkansas was rising 
with the snow water from the upper country and fording 
was difficult, the doctor advised the change. 

This [records the doctor] enabled me to make his condition 
much more comfortable. In the intervals of his paroxyms, 
he beguiled the time by relating his past experiences. I read 
Dr. Peters' book, with the hero for my auditor; from time to 
time he would comment on the incidents of his eventful life. 

It was wonderful to read of the stirring scenes, thrilling 
and narrow escapes, and then look at the quiet, modest, retir- 
ing, but dignified little man who had done so much. 

His disease rapidly progressed and he calmly contemplated 
his approaching death. Several times he repeated the remark : 


" If it were not for this," pointing to his chest, " I might live 
to be a hundred years old." 

I explained to him the probable mode of termination of his 
disease : " that he might die from suffocation or more probably 
the aneurism would burst and cause death by hemorrhage." 
He expressed a decided preference for the latter mode. His 
attacks of dyspnoea were horrible, threatening immediate dis- 
solution. I was compelled to give him chloroform to relieve 
him, at considerable risk of hastening a fatal result; but he 
begged me not to let him suffer such tortures, and if I killed 
him by chloroform while attempting relief, it would be much 
better than death by suffocation. 

Once he remarked : " What am I to do ? I can 't get along 
without a doctor." 

I replied : " I '11 take care of you." 

He, smiling, said : " You must think I am not going to live 
long." 221 

Captain (Brevet Brigadier General) W. H. Penrose com- 
manded the post of Fort Lyon in the spring of 1868. The 
troops then stationed there were A Company, Fifth In- 
fantry, Captain (Brevet Major) James Casey, First Lieu- 
tenant Charles Porter, Second Lieutenant J. W. Pope; I 
Company, Third Infantry, Captain Gageby, First Lieu- 
tenant Bonsall, Second Lieutenant John W. Hannay; G. 
Company, Third Infantry, First Lieutenant J. W. Thomas 
(commanding), Second Lieutenant Briggs; Troop L, 
Seventh Cavalry, Captain Gillette, First Lieutenant Berry, 
Second Lieutenant John F. Weston. 

New Fort Lyon was at this time one of the rudest and 
dreariest of frontier posts. It was, of course, unenclosed, 
after plains fashion of army days' its buildings being 
grouped about the sun-baked parade ground. The " offi- 
cers' row " was composed of small four-room houses, some 
occupied by two families; built of rough stone blocks 
chinked with mud, the floors unfinished lumber, the wood 
partitions between rooms being in many instances only 
eight or nine feet high, with the remaining space to the 


rafters filled in with flour sacking. There were no ceilings. 
The roofs were of long boards, in the rough, and un- 
trimmed, so that their ends projected irregularly, as eaves. 
The Tilton quarters were next to the foot of the row, the 
chaplain's being last. 222 

The presence of Kit Carson at the post was a diversion 
of much interest to the garrison, relieving a routine usually 
monotonous. The officers paid him marked attention, of 
mingled respect and admiration; he need never be without 

The day after his arrival at the fort, or May 15, he made 
his will. A bed of blankets and buffalo robes had been laid 
for him upon the floor of the Tilton quarters. Here he 
reclined in a half-sitting posture, his head well bolstered 
so that he might breathe at his easiest. Beside him slept, 
at night, when not on duty, the surgeon and Mr. Scheurich. 

The night preceding death he spent more comfortably than 
he had for days before. He was obliged to sit up nearly all 
the night time. He coughed up a little amount of blood during 
the night, and a very little in the forenoon. 223 

He had been told that a grave token in the progress of 
his disease would be blood in the sputum indicating that 
the aneurysm was breaking through into the trachea. There- 
fore he was accustomed (so once related Mr. Scheurich) 
to watch his sputum and comment upon it. About mid- 
afternoon, of May 23, he said that he was hungry, and he 
asked Mr. Scheurich to cook him a good dinner ; he wanted 
something prepared by his dear compadre; he was tired of 
what had been given him. 

Accordingly, Mr. Scheurich (husband to Carson's favor- 
ite niece, Teresina Bent, Santa Fe Trail trader, and com- 
padre or godfather in the Carson household) went to the 
kitchen, under approval of Dr. Tilton who knew that the 
end could not be far cooked a substantial steak and made 


p z 

' _j 

K o 





(From large crayon portrait at the M. M. Chase ranch house, 
Cimarron, Nezv Mexico) 


coffee, and brought them in; and General Carson dined 

Then he called for a pipe. Which pipe would he have? 
There was the fine pipe, gift to him from General Fremont, 
and there were other pipes of good quality. No ; he wished 
his old clay pipe, and while he smoked it he and his compadre 
would talk of old times. 

The doctor and Mr. Scheurich were glad to humor him. 
He smoked; Mr. Scheurich chatted; Surgeon Tilton lis- 
tened. Suddenly the General coughed (as Mr. Scheurich 
recollected, in telling), his saliva came red. "I'm gone," 
he uttered. " Goodby, doctor. Adios, compadre!' He 
grasped Mr. Scheurich's hand, and held it to the end, which 
arrived quickly. 224 

With this account Surgeon Tilton's report substantially 
agrees : 

In the afternoon, while I was lying down on the bed, and he 
was listening to Mr. Sherrick, he suddenly called out, " Doc- 
tor, Compadre, Adios!" 

I sprang to him, and seeing a gush of blood pouring from 
his mouth, remarked, " This is the last of the general " ; I 
supported his forehead on my hand, while death speedily closed 
the scene. 

The aneurism had ruptured into the trachea. Death took 
place at 4:25 p. m., May 23, i868. 225 

Thus after over forty years of peril by camp and trail 
passed Kit Carson, peacefully, of natural cause, in his bed, 
holding to the hand of one friend, ministered to by the hand 
of another. He passed, knowing that he was beloved and 
honored to the extent even of his need. Death might have 
been much worse. 

Releasing himself, Mr. Scheurich rushed out and en- 
countered the officer of the day. "The General is dead! 
General Carson is dead ! " he reported, half distraught. 


The officer, a young subaltern, seemed to have his mind 
upon matters afar, and his first response was " Very well, 
sir"; but instantly realizing, he, likewise, was strongly 
moved, and carried the word to headquarters. General Pen- 
rose, commanding officer of the post, ordered the funeral 
for ten o'clock, the next morning, May 24. Sergeant Luke 
Cahill, who was non-commissioned officer of A Company, 
Fifth Infantry, writes to me: 

As soon as his death was announced the flag was lowered to 
half-mast. All troops off duty were ordered to attend the 
funeral. The funeral commenced as ordered; marched one 
mile west of the fort ; music was furnished by three fif ers and 
three drummers of the infantry; three volleys were fired by 
cavalry and infantry; taps were sounded by the 7th Cavalry 
bugler; the napoleon guns at the fort were fired each minute 
during the march and ceremony. 226 

The post chaplain officiating was the Reverend Gamaliel 
Collins, who bore the customary soubriquet of the army 
service, " Holy Joe." To contribute to the simple ceremony, 
the women of the post gave the white paper flowers from 
their bonnets; no more suitable floral offerings were avail- 
able. To line the rough board casket Mrs. Casey, the wife 
of Captain Casey, gave her wedding gown. 

At a mile from the post the body was consigned to the 
relatives and friends from Boggsville ; and, conveyed thither 
under military escort, was interred beside the remains of the 
wife who had preceded him by only a month. Carson's 
request had been that he and Mrs. Carson be buried in the 
cemetery at Taos. The removal, however, was not made 
until more than a year had elapsed. Then, both bodies 
were taken over the Raton Pass, by wagon and team, and 
on through Maxwell's at Cimarron to Taos. In the quaint 
Taos cemetery they rest, today. For forty years the two 
graves, enclosed by wooden palings, were neglected, except 


on Memorial Day. The General's mound was marked by 
a headstone, inscribed : 


Died May 23rd, 1868 

Aged 59 Years. 

Mrs. Carson's mound was designated only by a small 
w r ooden cross. But on July 8, 1908, the Grand Lodge of 
Masons of New Mexico dedicated an iron fence, erected by 
them, and saw to the rehabilitation of the graves, them- 
selves. The Carson stone was set upon a new base, and a 
tasteful granite stone was planted at the head of his wife's 
mound. It reads : 

wife of 


Born March 19, 1828, 
Died April 23, 1868. 

The death of Kit Carson was communicated at once to 
Denver, the nearest newspaper point, and thence was sent 
broadcast by telegraph. This dispatch and comment appear 
in the Rocky Mountain News of May 27 : 

FT. LYON, C. T., May 23, '68. 

Ed. News General Kit Carson died at this post between 
the hours of four and five o'clock, afternoon, this day, from 
disease of the heart, under which he had been laboring since 
his return from the East. He had been removed to the fort 
some ten days since, so that Doctor Tilton, the post surgeon, 
could give him better attention than if he had remained at his 
brother-in-law's, Mr. Boggs, some five miles distant. 



Over what an immense expanse of plains, of snow-clad sier- 
ras, of rivers, lakes and seas, has he cut the first paths, into 
which now the locomotives, the steamships, the organized two 
halves of human society, are massing the activity, the power, 
the condensed energy of ancient and modern times ? 


To his companions Carson has been always known as the 
most genial and excellent of men of sleepless activity where- 
ever a charitable act has been within his reach. Daring, de- 
voted and sincere, his fidelity has been unblemished in every 
hour of his life, and in every relation. Citizen, soldier, hus- 
band, father, neighbor in all these relations his guiding in- 
stinct has been an innate chivalry, from the practice of which 
nothing has ever deflected him. He had in him a personal 
courage which came forth when wanted, like lightning from 
a cloud at other times, unobtrusive and unnoticed. 

On May 26 the Democratic Club of Pueblo (Colorado) 
passed resolutions : 

Whereas, it has pleased the Supreme Ruler to remove from 
our midst one of the most honored of our associates, in the 
person of General Kit Carson, therefore 

Resolved That in the death of General Carson, Colorado 
mourns the loss of a single man, true-hearted patriot, who, 
whether in the character of citizen or soldier, was stainless 
and above reproach. 

Resolved That, as citizens of Colorado, we cherish with 
deep reverence the memory of General Carson, as the great 
path-finder; as a model of unobtrusive heroism; a pattern 
of true chivalry ; as a true representative man of the West 
whose character and services are justly the pride of his 

Resolved That as members of this Association we have 
sustained the loss of a distinguished associate, whose life was 
devoted to the maintenance of the cherished principles of our 
party, and whose pure and stainless character as a man attested 
the sincerity and unselfishness of his political creed. 

The secretary was directed to transmit for publication a 
copy of these resolutions (which provoked tart rejoinder 
from political pens opposing their claim) to the papers of 
the Territory; to the World, of New York; to the Mis- 
souri Republican, of St. Louis ; and to the Intelligencer, of 
Washington. 227 

When the news of the death reached Fort Garland, the 


officers and residents there drew up resolutions also, signed 
by Albert H. Pfeiffer, late major, and brevet lieutenant 
colonel, First New Mexican Cavalry; John Thompson, 
major, First New Mexican Cavalry; John Buford, first 
lieutenant, 37th United States Infantry; H. B. Fleming, 
major, 37th Infantry, presiding; and Randolph Schmieding, 
secretary. These resolutions were sent to the Army and 
Navy Journal, as well as to other publications. 

The Pueblo Chieftain, in its first issue, which was June 
i ; the Santa Fe New Mexican; the Deseret (Utah) News, 
and other western journals paid tribute to the great scout, 
while the large eastern papers were not less liberal in their 
praise. Appleton's Annual American Encyclopaedia for 
1868 devoted to him a column more than assigned to 
many higher officers, and to many scientists, jurists, and 

The Carson will, made on May 15, or immediately after 
his arrival at the Tilton quarters indicates only a modest 
estate, of " one hundred to two hundred " head of cattle ; 
seven yoke of steers; two ox wagons, four horses and a 
carriage; house and lot at Taos, valued at $1,000; the fur- 
niture in the house there ; " two or three pieces of land " 
in the valley of Taos ; a promissory note of $3,000, signed 
by Lucien Maxwell ; and " any moneys which may be due 
me from Mr. Myer of Costilla, C. T., and Mr. Rudolph, the 
sutler of Fort Garland." Mr. Meyer informed the writer 
that in obedience to these instructions he turned over to the 
estate about $1,200. 

The estate, for which his friend, Tom Boggs, was named 
by Carson as executor, has been figured up at $9,000. A 
reminder of it are the Cross J cattle still existing (1912) 
in the Las Animas country of southern Colorado, where 
they perpetuate the Carson brand, and where for many years 
they formed the herd of Jesse Nelson, the pioneer settler, 
who married a niece of Carson's. 


The Carson children were taken care of by relatives and 
friends. Tom Boggs took some of them. Teresina was 
adopted by Mr. Hough, and reared and educated by him. 
William, the eldest, was billeted to General Sherman; the 
Sherman promise made at Fort Garland had not been for- 
gotten by the father. 

Accordingly [writes Sherman], some time about the spring 
of 1868 there came to my house, in St. Louis, a stout boy with 
a revolver, " Life of Kit Carson " by Dr. Peters (United 
States Army), about $40 in money, and a letter, from Boggs, 
saying that in compliance with the request of Kit Carson, on 
his death-bed, he had sent William Carson to me. 228 

General Sherman put William through three years at the 
Catholic College at South Bend, Indiana, (today Notre 
Dame University), but at the end found that the lad " had 
no taste or appetite for learning." He transferred his 
charge to the more congenial atmosphere of Fort Leaven- 
worth, to work and study; and certainly no youth had bet- 
ter incentive toward an army career. Lieutenant Beard, 
post adjutant, instructed him for a commission; and when 
William was twenty-one, Sherman 

applied in person to the President, General Grant, to give the 
son of Kit Carson the appointment of Second Lieutenant, 
Ninth United States Cavalry, telling him somewhat of the 
foregoing details. General Grant promptly ordered the ap- 
pointment to issue, subject to the examination as to educational 
qualifications, required by the law. 

But William was found " deficient in reading, writing, 
and arithmetic " ; and General Sherman, head of the Army, 
could only advise him to return to the Boggs ranch on the 
Purgatoire. 229 



(Augustus Lukeman of New York, in consultation with Frederick G. R. 
Roth, sculptor) 




KIT CARSON was not a great man, nor a brilliant man. 
He was a great character; and if it was not his to scin- 
tillate, nevertheless he shone with a constant light. It is 
pleasant to know that he was thoroughly appreciated by 
Government and nation. Education might have given him 
more material advancement, but it could not have given him 
more regard. |J8ncro*t kJbfttfjt 

His personal appearance has been described in the words 
of his contemporaries, in the foregoing pages. " A perfect 
Saxon," records Mrs. Fremont, " clear and fair, with light 
and thin ' baby ' hair, blue eyes, light eye-brows and lashes 
and a fair skin. He was very short and unmistakably 
bandy-legged, long-bodied and short-limbed." His official 
biographer, Dr. Peters, who might be expected, through 
careful observation, to describe him best, says of him 
" small in stature, but of compact frame-work. He had a 
large and finely developed head, a twinkling gray eye, and 
hair of a sandy color, which he combed back a la Franklin 
mode." He was about five feet eight, and weighed a mean 
of about 145 pounds. 

What he lacked in inches he made up in agility. His eyes, 
gray in peace, flamed to steely turquoise in excitement, 
when, according to Oliver Wiggins, " they were terrible 
they blazed like a rattlesnake's." His hair, in later years, 
became thin and faded. 

He was fond of his pipe, that companion of camp and 
march. In the use of alcohol he was exceedingly circum- 
spect. Mr. Hough says : " Carson was not a drinking man, 



and did not approve of drinking." Captain Simpson says 
that " a spoonful of whisky in a glass of water was about 
his extent." Mr. Robert C. Lowry, of New York City, who 
was in the Carson mess at Fort Union, in the 'sixties, states 
that he was " not a drinker, nor yet was he a teetotaler." 
He had no objection to a pipe, a bowl of hot punch, and a 
circle of cronies about a blazing hearth, in winter. At 
such a time, in garrison or at Maxwell's " manor," he would 
drop his habitual reticence, and would vie with the others 
at story-telling and anecdote. 

Much emphasis has been placed upon his aversion to all 
display or personal assertion. " Quick to act, and never 
known to boast," is the Peters epigram, well phrased. Car- 
son's voice was low and mild, in keeping with his mild 
appearance. He was also sparing of words, although in his 
later years, as his hair silvered, he grew more mellow and 
genial, so that at Fort Garland General Rusling found him 
even talkative. 

" A man of the most kindly and gentle spirit ; unassuming, 
quiet, and the last person that one would suppose to 
be possessed of qualities that made him famous," out of 
his lively recollections writes Mr. Lowry to the author ; and 
continues : 

He was a very genial man, and there were one or two funny 
stories that I used to tell him that amused him greatly, espe- 
cially one that described a fight between two camp-women at 
Fort Union. I lived in Santa Fe the winter of 1863 and 1864, 
and he was there at the time, and almost always when I met 
him he would stop and make me tell him that story. He also 
used to lend me his horse to ride. It was a very ordinary look- 
ing yellow horse, and a pacer, and by no means the prancing 
steed that he is always pictured as mounted upon. He was so 
unassuming and kind-hearted that he won me completely, for 
I was only a boy of seventeen or eighteen, and to have Kit Car- 
son notice me and seem attracted to my yarns meant a great 
deal to me. 


An oft-repeated anecdote is that which relates of an army 
officer, somewhat of a hero- worshiper, who, upon meeting 
Carson, exclaimed, effusively : " So this is the great Kit 
Carson, who has made so many Indians run!" "Yes," 
drawled Carson, " sometimes I run after them, but most 
times they war runnin' after me." 

An old trapper whom I encountered in San Diego de- 
clared that during the 'sixties he was with Carson on the 
veranda of an Omaha hotel. Carson was en route either 
to or from the East. A Jewish traveling man urged the 
General for a story, and finally Carson drawled : 

" Well, I '11 tell ye. I war down on the plains, an' the 
Comanches got after me. Thar war 'bout five hundred of 
'em, an' they chased me. We run an' we run, an' my hoss 
war killed an' I clum a sort o' butte. Thar war a leetle 
split or canon in it, an' I run up this. One big red rascal 
kep' right on my heels; my gun war busted, but I had my 
knife. The split narrered an' narrered, an' got smaller an' 
smaller, an' suddenly it pinched out; an' thar I war, at the 
end. So I turned, with my knife, an' when he come on I 
struck at him. But the walls o' the split war so near to- 
gether that I hit the rock, an' busted my knife squar' off at 
the hilt. When he seed that he give a big yell, for my scalp, 
an' at me he jumped." 

Here Carson stopped, reflectively, and spat. The inter- 
rogator waited, breathless, until the suspense was beyond 

" Yes ! And then what, General ? " he demanded. 

" Wall," drawled Carson, calmly; " then the Injun killed 


Considering that this episode is also attributed to Jim 
Bridger, as a favorite in his wide repertoire, we may ac- 
cept the new version of it as " trapper's talk." However, 
the retort is like Kit Carson. 

Captain Simpson recalls that when Carson visited at Taos, 


during active army service, he was wont to doff his uniform 
and modestly return to citizen garb. It always irritated 
him to be addressed with a title. " Oh, call me ' Kit,' 
boys. Plain Kit 's good enough for me," he would direct 
in the same tenor as remarked by Colonel Meline at Santa 
Fe. He was likewise prone to deprecate the Peters lan- 
guage, in the official biography, and complain, humbly, that 
" Peters laid it on a leetle too thick." 

Carson was eminently a self-made man. What he 
acquired, beyond the intrinsic character which was his by 
birthright, he acquired through observation and assimila- 
tion. Concerning his ability in letters there has been much 
dispute. Until past middle age he could not read or write. 
Captain Pettis says that when he knew him, in the 'sixties, 
the most that he could accomplish was to scrawl his name 
" after much twisting about in his chair, and turning his 
head in forty directions." Another authority says that he 
could pick out a few printed words, as a child would pick 
them out. Mr. Hough says that at Boggsville he could both 
read and write. Captain Simpson solves the discussion by 
saying that all are correct. " Kit Carson before the war 
could but write his name, and read but a word or two. But 
from the time when he went out as an army officer with 
other army officers, by association and by application he 
learned more, so that w r hen I was last with him he was a 
fair reader and writer, but was not ' stuck on the job/ I 
noticed quite an improvement in his dress, his speech and 
his whole being. The war developed him, so that in my 
opinion there were two Kit Carsons one before the war, 
and one after." 

" He would frequently get his grammar wrong, and his 
speech was the patois of the Border," narrates General Rus- 
ling. " But there was an eloquence in his eye and a pathos 
in his voice that would have touched a heart of stone." 

The war seems to have made him more affable. He 


dropped the careful reserve engendered by years of watch- 
fulness and hardships on the lone trail. Mr. Lowry relates : 

When Carson was organizing the First Regiment of New 
Mexico Volunteers, and was at Fort Union, he was a member 
of our mess, which consisted of Captain P. W. L. Plympton, 
now deceased, Captain (General) A. B. Carey, now retired, 
two or three others, and myself. I was only a government 
clerk. In the cold winter evenings, over a roaring fire-place 
and a steaming bowl of punch we smoked our pipes and told 
stories. Carson was usually reticent and sparing in speech, 
but whenever he got warmed up a little with a sip or two of 
punch his tongue would loosen itself somewhat and he would 
join in the " story telling." He had one account of a buffalo 
hunt, to the effect that somewhere down on the lower Cimar- 
ron, on a scout with General Carleton, the soldiers kept re- 
turning empty-handed to camp, with reports of poor shooting 
and bad luck, etc. Carson told them that he would wager he 
could go out and kill ten buffalo with ten balls. He went out, 
and killed the ten buffalo with nine balls, having got two of 
the animals in line and killed both with the one shot! 

Like many another frontiersman, Carson possessed a great 
thirst for and a keen, practical appreciation of good liter- 
ature. The realm of books was to him a fascinating fount. 
It is recorded that " old " Jim Bridger, excited by long 
months in camp with the cultured Sir George Gore, and by 
the Shakespeare to whom Sir George introduced him, bought 
from an emigrant train a Shakespeare in trade for a yoke of 
oxen, and then hired a boy at forty dollars a month to read 
it to him. Literature was a new trail. As for Carson 
Captain A. W. Archibald, Trinidad, Colorado, says : 

Talking with him one day he said to me that nobody whose 
writings had been read to him had ever fully described life 
along the trail, western life, or the experiences of a hunter. I 
happened to quote to him the beginning of Scott's " Lady of 
the Lake" 

"The stag at eve had drunk his fill," etc. Immediately he 


asked me who wrote that and what was the poem. He begged 
me to find a copy of the entire poem, which I did, and every 
night for three weeks I read it to him. He regarded it as the 
finest expression of outdoor life that he had ever heard, and 
frequently afterward quoted with genuine approval stanzas 
from it. 

In common with westerners, and particularly borderers 
especially as is the case with the half -Indian life, of the trap- 
per Carson was passionately fond of horse racing, or, 
more definitely, pony running. A natural amphitheater, like 
a basin, on the outskirts of Denver, where the Arapahos 
were prone to run their ponies, is pointed out as one of the 
Carson race courses. 

He also enjoyed the old draw poker of the frontier in 
army days. " He gambled to the extent of playing with 
beans for chips," related to me Captain Pettis, " and he 
always paid his losses, if any. But whenever I called a 
hand, he was apt to reply ' two pair ' ( which usually meant 
fours), when he would haul in the pot, and looking at me 
over the tops of his glasses would say, ' Pettis, you can't 
play poker' in which assertion he was correct as he was in 
other assertions." 

When he died he had long been a member of Montezuma 
Lodge, A. F. & A. M., Santa Fe, to which he presented his 
Hawkins rifle. He is reported as having claimed that 
among the Pueblos and other tribes he observed traces of 
Masonic rites. He is enrolled as a charter member of Kit 
Carson Post No. 2, G. A. R., of Washington. 

A monument has been erected to him by the New Mexico 
Grand Army, in the plaza at Santa Fe. His figure crowns 
the Pioneer Monument in the Civic Center at Denver. 
Trinidad has a Kit Carson Park, donated by Mayor Daniel 
L. Taylor, who knew him; and a monument, bearing his 
figure, is to be erected there also. Kentucky and Missouri 
have signified a determination to erect other monuments to 


his memory. Thus will three communities, those wherein 
respectively he was born, raised, and where he worked, do 
him honor. Surely Kit Carson cannot complain of 

It has been proposed to make of hfe house in Taos a 
shrine, where visitors may view relics of his life; and the 
Daughters of the American Revolution have proposed to 
dedicate, similarly, the house wherein he died, at Fort Lyon 
which is now the United States Naval Sanatorium. 

So the glamour of his name continues ; increasing rather 
than failing. About it there is nothing false ; fact and tra- 
dition alike are pleasant and wholesome ; and as time wears 
on, the assertion of the Santa Fe Gazette correspondent, 
November 18, 1864, still holds good: 

" As loyal a gentleman and as truthful a citizen as ever 
honored any country or age." 






Most Romantic and Pious of Mountain Men, First 

American by Land into California. 

(From the Illinois Magazine, June, 1832) 

Some remarks concerning the Columbia River, in a late 
number of this Magazine, bring strongly to mind the gentle- 
man whose name is several times mentioned in that article ; 
and the writer has been induced to inquire, with much inter- 
est, what notice has been taken of him at St. Louis, his 
place of residence when in the United States. With not a 
little concern and surprise, it has been ascertained that the 
death and character of our distinguished countryman, J. S. 
Smith, have been entirely unnoticed there. 

It has become the duty, then, of one of his latest friends, 
to say a few words of a man whose memory ought to be 
cherished by every American. Our country has produced 
but few travellers; let it not be told, then, that we are un- 
willing to render the meed of praise where it is justly due. 
Let us not cast into oblivion the memory of one so richly 
deserving an imperishable monument so worthy to be 
called the greatest American traveller. Ledyard has had his 
biographer, and he well deserved one. His intentions were 
noble, and his plans most extensive, both to open new 
sources of wealth and commerce for his country, and to 
trace out analogies in the manners, customs, and language 
of different nations. Had Ledyard succeeded in accom- 



plishing that for which he traversed nearly the whole of 
the Russian empire, he would have done much that we are 
now proud to ascribe to Smith. 

There is a marked resemblance in the characters of these 
two men; the same moral courage and untiring energy 
the same perseverance and indifference to personal priva- 
tion and suffering. But Ledyard had the advantages of a 
college education Smith merely those of the common 
schools in the interior of New York; Ledyard made the 
whole world the theatre of his travels Smith, more truly 
American, traversed the vast country west of the United 
States, between the Russian settlements, on the north, and 
the Spanish possessions, at California; Ledyard failed in all 
his great attempts Smith, in his, succeeded perfectly. We 
are ready to weep for poor Ledyard, when, after so many 
difficulties and disappointments, he falls a victim to disease 
in Africa ; but we are struck with horror, when, at the age 
of thirty-three, Smith falls beneath the spears of the savage 
Cumanchees, in the wilds between Missouri and Santa Fe. 

The writer of this notice is little acquainted with the 
early history of Smith. It may, however, easily be obtained. 
He was born in Bainbridge, Chenango county, New York, 
24th June, 1798. 

He came to St. Louis, in 1821, with the intention, it is 
said, of accompanying an expedition of hunters to the Rocky 
Mountains. He enlisted in the service of Gen. Ashley, as a 
hunter, and started with the company in the spring of 1822. 

" Few men have been more fortunate than I have," said 
Mr. Smith to the writer, in March, 1831. "I started into 
the mountains, with the determination of becoming a first- 
rate hunter, of making myself thoroughly acquainted with 
the character and habits of the Indians, of tracing out the 
sources of the Columbia River, and following it to its 
mouth; and of making the whole profitable to me, and I 
have perfectly succeeded." Indeed, he did much more than 


he had planned out. For nine years and a half he was 
almost constantly traveling. He became well acquainted 
with the sources, direction, and length of most of the tribu- 
taries of the Missouri and Columbia rivers, and of the 
numerous tribes of Indians that dwell on their banks. He 
traversed the Rocky Mountains in every direction, found 
out the best hunting grounds and the best passes through the 
mountains. The salt lake, salt plains, and caves of solid 
salt were familiar to him. He had visited whole tribes of 
Indians that had never before seen a white man or a horse 
people more rude and barbarous probably than any that 
have ever been described. There is no written notice of 
these people anywhere except in the notes of Mr. Smith. 
He was a close and accurate observer and a student of 
nature. He thought nothing in the works of God unworthy 
of his notice, and from constant observation he had amassed 
an immense fund of knowledge, exceedingly useful and in- 
teresting in every branch of natural history. More than this, 
by his intimate knowledge of the geography of that immense 
tract of country, he had found that all the maps of it were 
full of errors, and worse than useless as guides to travellers. 
Compare his travels with those of all who had gone before 
him, of all who have published anything of that country, 
and it will appear how much, I had almost said infinitely, 
greater his opportunities have been than all theirs, however 
great may have been their pretensions. 

We have read with delight and instruction, expeditions 
and travels to the mountains, and the Pacific Ocean. The 
difficulties and dangers to be encountered, the perilous 
adventures, and hairbreadth escapes of which we have read 
and heard, have thrown over that whole land a fearful kind 
of romance and the hunters themselves we have looked 
on as most daring*, intrepid, persevering men; and so, in- 
deed, many of them are. But where shall we find another 
who has braved and overcome more dangers and perils than 


Smith? Where one who has suffered so much, and still 
with an unbroken spirit ? Much as we feel for Capt. Frank- 
lin and his party, in their travels to the Polar Seas, the 
Hudson Bay Company, with whom Smith spent a winter, 
and who were acquainted with the circumstances of both, 
will tell us that the exertions and sufferings of Smith were 
not exceeded by those of Capt. Franklin. 

If there is any merit in untiring perseverance and terrible 
suffering in the prosecution of trade, in searching out new 
channels of commerce, in tracing out the courses of un- 
known rivers, in discovering the resources of unknown 
regions, in delineating the characters, situation, numbers, 
and habits of unknown nations, Smith's name must be en- 
rolled with those of Franklin and Parry, of Clapperton and 

Is there one, then, who would detract one iota from his 
deserts ? Can there be found one who, in danger, distress, 
and want shared his hospitality in the mountains, that would 
appropriate to himself the least portion of honor due to 
Smith, or would refuse him just praise and gratitude? For 
the honor of our country, let us trust there is not one. 

It will certainly be gratifying to our literary men, as well 
as to all those engaged in the fur trade, to know that Smith 
took notes of all his travels and adventures, and that these 
notes have been copied, preparatory for the press. There 
may be some omissions in them, for reasons which will prob- 
ably appear in the book itself. That country is attracting, 
every day, more and more attention. And particularly at 
this time, when people begin to talk of making an establish- 
ment near the mouth of the Columbia, where Smith spent 
a winter, and from whose communication to the secretary 
of war is derived the most authentic information we have 
of Fort Vancouver, such information as may be obtained 
from Smith's notes must be of immense interest and impor- 
tance. This, however, is not all; convinced, as Smith was, 


of the inaccuracy of all the maps of that country, and of the 
little value they would be to hunters and travellers, he has, 
with the assistance of his partners, Sublitt and Jackson, and 
of Mr. S. Parkman, made a new, large, and beautiful map, 
in which are embodied all that is correct of preceding maps, 
the known tracks of former travellers, his own extensive 
travels, the situation and numbers of various Indian tribes, 
and much other valuable information.* This map is now 
probably the best, extant, of the Rocky Mountains and the 
country on both sides, from the States to the Pacific. ... 
It will be published, and exactly as Smith left it. This is 
perfectly proper, for it is very doubtful whether there is a 
man in our country, who is competent to mend it, where it 
may be erroneous, or supply its deficiencies where any exist. 

A narrative of five or six years' residence on the banks 
of the Columbia, by Mr. R. Cox, is announced as about 
appearing in London. The American public will doubtless 
receive it greedily. No map is mentioned in connection 
with his work. It gives us pleasure to know that the whole 
of that region is about to be unlocked to the knowledge of 
the civilized world, and that one of our own countrymen is 
to have so much of the honor of doing it. 

The circumstances of Mr. Smith's death, as nearly as they 
could be collected, are the following: 

He left St. Louis on the loth of April, 1831, at the head 
of a party of Santa Fe traders. On the 27th of May, about 
three hundred miles from Santa Fe, the party had been 
nearly three days without water, and as many as could be 
spared were sent in different directions in search of it. 
Smith, with Mr. Fitzpatrick, went forward in a south direc- 
tion, the same the party were then travelling. They came to 
a deep hollow, in which water had usually been found by 
former parties, but it was then dry. Smith left Fitzpatrick 

* " Parkman " means, of course, Rev. Samuel Parker, the missionary. 
"Sublitt" is properly Sublett. E. L. S. 


to wait till the party should come up, with directions to dig 
for water, while he would push on a few miles further south, 
to some broken ground, visible in that direction. He was 
last seen, by a spy-glass, about three miles from Fitzpatrick. 
It seems that he came to the head of a stream, which was 
afterwards ascertained to be the Cimeron, and imprudently 
descended to it. He was discovered by some Indians, who 
kept themselves concealed from him, till they were sure of 
cutting off his retreat. He discovered them approaching, 
when they were within half a mile's distance ; and knowing 
that it was too late for flight, he rode directly towards them. 
At a short distance, they halted at his order, and made efforts 
to frighten his horse, wishing to fire on him when he was 
turned from them. After conversing among themselves 
about fifteen minutes, in Spanish, which Mr. Smith did not 
understand, they succeeded in scaring and turning his horse, 
when they immediately fired. A ball entered his body, near 
the left shoulder. Smith turned, levelled his rifle, and with 
the same ball shot the chief and another Indian, who was 
immediately behind him, and before he could get command 
of his pistols, they rushed upon him, and despatched him 
with their spears. His body was probably thrown into a 
ravine, as nothing could be found of it, when search was 
made for it two days afterwards. This information was 
obtained of the Indians, by a Spanish Indian trader, after 
the party arrived at Santa Fe. 

All who were intimately acquainted with Mr. Smith must 
look upon his death as a public calamity. No man was bet- 
ter able to give the government information of the char- 
acter, numbers, and strength of the different Indian tribes, 
of the value of the lands they inhabit, the value of the lands 
of the Columbia, the best places for settlements, the re- 
sources of the new settlers, should a colony be established 
there, the dangers they would have to encounter, and the 
best means to meet them. He could have proposed practic- 


able plans for ameliorating the condition of the Indians, 
infinitely superior to the theories of kind hearted philan- 
thropists, who are little acquainted with the Indian char- 
acter; for he was fully aware of many causes operating 
against their improvements, which are not sufficiently esti- 
mated, if at all; such as the pernicious effects of different 
hunting and trading companies with opposing interests; of 
English and Spanish influence, as opposed to us; of their 
perpetual hostilities among themselves. We need the ex- 
perience of such men, in devising any plans of civilization 
among them. 

In reflecting on the character of Mr. Smith, when we 
recollect how and where, and in what company he had spent 
the last ten years of his life, we are filled with admiration 
and delight. There was none of the uncouth roughness of 
a hunter he was gentle and affable. Exposed as he had 
been, as captain or chief of a party, in that lawless country, 
to many and great temptations, he held fast his integrity; 
with his ears constantly filled with the language of the pro- 
fane and dissolute, no evil communication proceeded out of 
his mouth. He was exact in his requisitions of duty, 
determined and persevering, always confident of success. 
When his party was in danger, Mr. Smith was always 
among the foremost to meet it, and the last to fly ; those who 
saw him on shore, at the Riccaree fight, in 1823, can attest 
to the truth of this assertion. In all his dealings with the 
Indians, he was strictly honorable, and always endeavored 
to give them favorable ideas of the whites. He made it a 
sacred rule, never to molest them, except in defence of his i 
own life and property, and those of his party. He was 
kind, obliging, and generous to a fault. Without being con- 
nected with any church, he was a Christian. The lone 
wilderness had been his place of meditation, and the moun- 
tain top his altar. He made religion an active, practical 
principle, from the duties of which nothing could seduce 


him. He affirmed it to be " the one thing needful," and his 
greatest happiness; yet was he modest, never obtrusive, 
charitable, " without guile." 

Such is a feeble sketch of J. S. Smith, a man whom none 
could approach without respect, or know without esteem. 
And though he fell under the spears of the savages, and his 
body has glutted the prairie wolf, and none can tell where 
his bones are bleaching, he must not be forgotten. One, 
at least, who knew his worth, and who had listened with 
childlike delight to his tales of daring deeds, and perilous 
adventure, can never forget him. But after all, his char- 
acter as a traveller as the greatest American traveller 
must depend upon his works. When they are published, 
exactly as he left them, there are thousands in our country, 
w r ho, thirsting for more knowledge of the " farthest west," 
will delight to render him all the honor that is justly due 

Alton, March, 1832. 



UTAH AGENCY, TAGS, N. M., September 26, 1855. 

I have the honor to report the following in regard to 
Indian affairs in my agency during the present month. 

On the 2nd instant, near Mora, two pastors were captured 
and one man killed. One of the pastors has made his escape 
from the Indians; he was in captivity four days. On the 
same day two pastors in the employ of Senor Juan Maus, on 
Rio Acate, were captured, and twelve head of cattle, average 
value twenty-five dollars per head, the property of Lucien 
B. Maxwell, was driven off from the Rayado. The two 
pastors captured on the Acate remained in captivity some 
fifteen days. They say that the Indians brought them and 


other property to the canon of Red River, and there con- 
cealed the animals they had, and proceeded to the neighbor- 
hood of the San Miguel for the purpose of stealing. The 
larger boy at the canon of Red River made his escape, and, 
arrived at San Miguel, informed the Mexicans of the ani- 
mals concealed in canon of Red River. A party returned 
with him, and found animals as he had stated, and on their 
return to San Miguel they met the party of Indians, which 
the boy had informed them had gone to the neighborhood of 
San Miguel for the purpose of stealing. They had with 
them several animals. The Mexicans attacked them and 
rescued the boy that was still in their possession, who had 
been captured at Acate. 

On the 8th instant I left my agency for the purpose of 
attending the treaty to be held at Abiquiu on the loth. I 
made it my duty to pass by Embudo and Rio Arriba, for 
the purpose of ascertaining the whereabouts of the Utah 
captive reported to have been sold, but without success. 

On the loth and nth I attended the treaty. I think the 
Mohuaches and Jicarillas that were present were serious in 
that which they said, and in all probability will remain 
friendly for a long period. The Indians that are now com- 
mitting depredations are those who have lost their families 
during the war. They consider they have nothing further 
to live for than revenge for the death of those of their 
families that were killed by the whites ; they have become 
desperate ; when they will ask for peace I cannot say. 

Respectfully submitted. 

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient 
servant, C. CARSON, 

Indian Agent. 

Supt. Indian Affairs, Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

Mr. Carson does not inform me what Indians committed 


these depredations, though the last part of his report would 
leave the impression that they were committed by the Jica- 
rilla Apaches. I am of the opinion that the Comanches are 
the guilty party, because it is scarcely probable that the 
Apaches would be guilty of such acts after they had sued for 
peace, and before peace was made, and then meet me in coun- 
cil but a few days thereafter. In addition to this it is posi- 
tively known that the Comanches had been about the canon 
of Red River both before and after the date of these depre- 
dations, and the Comanches and Jicarilla Apaches are hostile 
to each other. It is to be regretted that Agent Carson did 
not ascertain from the prisoners what Indians they were. 

Gov. and Supt. Indian Affairs, New Mexico. 


UTAH AGENCY, TAOS, N. M., August 29, 1857. 

In compliance with the regulations of the Indian depart- 
ment, under which I have the honor to act, I submit the fol- 
lowing report of the condition of this agency during the 
past year : 

It gives me pleasure to state that the Mohuache band 
of Utah Indians, for whom I am agent, are at this present 
date in a more prosperous condition than for years past. 
They are friendly disposed towards the United States, and 
are well satisfied with the treatment they receive from 

On the 1 8th of this month their yearly presents were 
delivered them at Abiquiu, and I can assure you that they 
never departed from a place more contented. They all were 
apparently happy and well satisfied with the presents they 
received. Heretofore they departed from the place that 
they received their presents in a state of discontentment; 


and after receiving their presents, in the year 1854, they 
immediately commenced hostilities. They are now more 
favorably disposed towards the whites than ever known 
heretofore. The citizens have no cause of complaint. I 
hear of no robberies being committed, and have ardent 
hopes of their remaining in a friendly state. 

The Mohuache Utahs are not Indians that are addicted to 
the use of ardent spirits. But I fear, if they are permitted 
to visit the settlements as they desire, that in a few years 
they will become accustomed to the use of ardent spirits ; and 
as Indians generally learn the vices and not the virtues of 
civilized men, they will become a degraded tribe, instead of 
being, as they are now, the most noble and virtuous tribe 
within our Territory. Prostitution, drunkenness, and the 
vices generally are unknown among them. Humanity, as 
well as our desire to benefit the Indian race, demands that 
they be removed as far as practicable from the settlements. 
Have farmers, mechanics, etc., placed among them, to give 
instruction in the manner of cultivating the soil to gain 
their subsistence, and teach them to make the necessary 
implements to carry on said labor. They would, in a few 
years, be able to support themselves, and not be, as at pres- 
ent, a burden on the general government. It is true much 
could not be expected of the present generation, for they 
have been accustomed to gain their maintenance by the chase 
and robberies committed on the neighboring tribes and the 
whites. But if the rising generation be taught to maintain 
themselves by honest labor, in their manhood they will not 
depart therefrom, and will feel proud in being able to in- 
struct their children the manner of maintaining themselves 
in an honest way. Troops, for a period of time, should be 
stationed near them, for the purpose of protecting them 
from hostile tribes, and also show unto them that the govern- 
ment has the power to cause them to remain on the lands 
given them, and not to encroach on that of their neighbors. 


The Mohuaches maintain themselves by the chase, and, as 
game is becoming more scarce, the government must fur- 
nish them provisions, more especially in the winter season, 
when, on account of the weakness of their animals and the 
depth of the snow in the mountains, it is utterly impracti- 
cable for them to proceed to their hunting grounds. 

During the year the Mohuaches have acted as well as 
could be expected of an uncivilized nation. They had but 
one cause of complaint, and that was in February last. A 
Mexican killed an Indian and squaw of their band, and they, 
knowing no other law but that of restitution, demanded pay- 
ment for the Indians murdered. I could not comply with 
their demand. They stole some fifteen head of horses and 
mules from the settlements of Rio Colorado and Culebra. 
They have returned them, with the expectation that justice, 
some day, will be rendered them, either by punishment of 
the murderer or payment for the murdered. Every means 
has been used to apprehend the murderer, but without effect. 
I have been informed that he has left the Territory, so I 
have but little hopes of ever being able to turn him over to 

I can only give you a rough estimate of the number of the 
band. They are seldom together, being dispersed among 
the different lands of the tribe. I am of opinion that of the 
Mohuache band of Utahs there are three hundred and fifty 
males and four hundred females. They maintain them- 
selves by the chase, and such provisions as are given them 
by governrnent. They are a very tractable race, and I have 
no doubt but that, by kind treatment, they might be brought 
to a state of civilization in a short period. 

During the past and present months, some one hundred 
and fifty lodges of the Tobawache band of Utahs have 
visited this section of the country. They expected to receive 
presents on the i8th of this month, but as they are not 
included within the superintendency, little could be given 


them. They are by far the largest band of the Utahs. Their 
main hunting grounds are within the limits of this Terri- 
tory. They range from Grand River west to the headwaters 
of the Del Norte east. It is impracticable for them to go to 
the Salt Lake to receive presents, on account of the barren- 
ness of the country over which they would have to travel, 
and the scarcity of game. They have never joined any of 
the bands of Utahs that have waged war against the citizens 
of this Territory. I would respectfully suggest that an 
agent or subagent be appointed to reside among them. 
They are by far the most noble of the Utah tribes. They 
have not, as yet, been contaminated by intercourse with 
civilized man. 

Respectfully submitted. 

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient 
servant, C. CARSON, 

Indian Agent. 

Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Santa Fe, New Mexico. 


UTAH AGENCY, TAOS, N. M., August 31, 1858. 

I have the honor to submit for your examination my 
annual report of operations, as required by the regulations 
of the Indian department. 

In my annual report dated August 29, 1857, I stated there 
were within this agency, under my charge, seven hundred 
and fifty Indians, male and female. 

The Tobawache band of Utahs have since then been 
attached to this agency. They number seven hundred 
males. It is impossible to give, as required by communi- 
cation from the Department of the Interior, dated July 
n, 1857, the exact number of Indians under my charge. 


They live in parties of ten to twenty lodges, and have no 
permanent residence. 

In agricultural or mechanical pursuits there are none en- 
gaged; by the chase, and with what is given them by the 
United States and its citizens, they maintain themselves. 

During the year the Indians committed few depredations : 
they stole some animals from the Mexicans, and the Mex- 
icans also stole some from them. The Indians gave me the 
animals stolen by them, and I made the Mexicans return the 
animals they had stolen, thus satisfying both parties. 

I have visited the Indians as often as necessary during the 
year, and given them such articles as they required, princi- 
pally provisions. It being thought that the Utahs would 
join the Mormons in their opposition to the entry of the 
United States troops into Great Salt Lake City, I caused the 
allowance of their provisions to be increased, to prevent such 
a course being pursued by them. No Utah, as far as